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Lone_Star
#1 Posted : Monday, March 10, 2014 5:08:40 PM(UTC)
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The intent of this post is not political, but rather to simply make readers aware that the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision that the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy Project was not happy with. I am not taking a position for/against, just passing information.

Here's a copy/paste of the email I received:

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a very disappointing decision.

In a blow to rail-trails, the Court ruled (8-1) against the U.S. Government’s interest in a former rail corridor that runs through land it used to own.

The case focused on a former rail line in Wyoming, most of which was converted to the Medicine Bow Rail Trail.

The Court ruled that the United States did not retain a “reversionary interest” in the railroad corridor after conveying the adjacent lands to private owners.

While our legal team is taking a closer look at the decision—and its implications for other rail-trails—here’s what we do know:
•This decision reversed a lower court ruling that the U.S. has a "reversionary interest" in a portion of a federally granted rail corridor that now runs through private land;
•The case (Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust et al. v. United States) will be sent back to a lower court;
•This decision does not affect rail-trails that are on “railbanked” corridors (rail corridors that are preserved under the federal “railbanking law” for future rail use by being converted to a trail in the interim). But this decision could open up certain non-railbanked corridors to more litigation.


Happy Trails!

Lone_Star
Austin Explorer
#2 Posted : Wednesday, March 12, 2014 10:50:50 AM(UTC)
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The trail seems very nice. I don't want to get political either, but a few things I found interesting from a story I perused.

Quote:
"For all I know, there is some right of way that goes through people's houses, you know," Justice Stephen Breyer said, "and all of a sudden, they are going to be living in their house and suddenly a bicycle will run through it."


Well, that sounds absurd. They're not talking about a portion of private property in private use, but a piece of land that was already in public use being repurposed.

Quote:
The mill is long gone, and — to Brandt's eye — his view is ruined by a Forest Service bicycle trail that runs behind his property, then bisects his 83-acre tract, which is about 50 miles west of Laramie.


I can understand wanting his land back. But his view is ruined by a bike trail? And this is worse than a railroad that ran through his land in what way? Just be honest about your motivation is all I ask.

Quote:
Today's ruling could have "implications for about 80 other cases involving some 8,000 claimants," according to USA Today. "Tens of thousands of other property owners also could emerge as victors."


Unfortunately, this case could be just the start of a wave of rollbacks for trails across the country. It may even weaken protection for those trails that are placed on rail bank right of ways.

I'll step off my soapbox now.
Robert
Lone_Star
#3 Posted : Wednesday, March 12, 2014 11:26:40 AM(UTC)
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Hey Robert,

Thanks for the link. Whenever a limited resource is at stake, this will be a never-ending argument. Research the history of any trail, especially the long national trails (e.g., PCT, AT, CDT, etc) and you'll always run into a clash of public vs private land ownership and when the use of eminent domain is appropriate and done in a fair way. The Continental Divide Trail is, to this day, still incomplete because of these unsettled arguments. Even at local and state levels this argument persists. Here in Houston, for example, they are trying to connect several trails/parks together (e.g., the Cypress Creek and Spring Creek Greenways), but constantly run into this same issue. Land ownership and homesteads are a fundamental right in this country, going way back into our history, so I don't envy the job the judges have to make in rendering these final controversial decisions.

I don't know the facts of this case and I'm not a lawyer, but in an era of divided politics I was surprised it was a 8-1 decision.
Happy Trails!

Lone_Star
Austin Explorer
#4 Posted : Monday, March 17, 2014 10:14:24 AM(UTC)
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More dominos to fall?

Quote:
A lawyer for the Mountain State Legal Foundation in Colorado, a public interest law firm that defends property rights, predicted that several thousand properties like Brandt's could be affected by the decision.


The again, maybe not the end of the world?

Quote:
Kevin Mills, senior vice president of policy and programs for the Rails to Trails Conservancy, stressed it's important to understand the scope and context of the ruling. He said it doesn't apply to trails that have been "railbanked," a federal process that preserves an unused rail corridor for future railroad use by converting it to a multi-use trail in the interim. It also doesn't affect rail corridors acquired by the federally granted right of way before 1875 and corridors acquired by a railroad from a private landowner. Also unaffected are current trails if the trail manager owns the land adjacent to the rail corridor; if the trail manager owns full title to the corridor; or the railroad corridor falls within the original 13 colonies.


My fear is that railbanking may be called into question and those "protected" trails will also come under attack.
Robert
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#5 Posted : Monday, March 17, 2014 10:38:33 AM(UTC)
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I agree with your last line. If there's a loophole, lawyers will try to find one (like trying to define what "is" is, lol).

Things are definitely changing as the world becomes more populated and stressed out. I predict these types of clashes between differing interest groups will rise as time moves on. It will be increasingly difficult to strike a balance. I was reminded of this battle this past weekend when I hiked the River Place Nature Trail and recalled that controversy. I also think about how Europe cut down almost all of their forests to support their historical growth and economy, or how the Amazon rainforest is being clear cut and the battle that rages in South America over it,and I hope we, Americans, have the wisdom to make better decisions.

On the one hand, I've seen State Parks close and sell off their land for various reasons (usually revenue-driven), which is sad, but I also see a push for new trails and green space to be opened up. I'm not sure how it all plays out in the end, but personally I am trying to see as many national and state parks and historical areas as quickly as possible while they (and I) are still around.
Happy Trails!

Lone_Star
Austin Explorer
#6 Posted : Thursday, March 20, 2014 10:51:21 AM(UTC)
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This article has an obvious right of center point of view and the wording may be incorrect, but this quote had me scratching my head:

Quote:
In 1976, the United States granted an 83-acre parcel of land in Fox Park, Wyoming, to the Brandts, with an exception for the railroad right of way, as the LHP&P’s line ran through the Brandts’ parcel. But nothing in the deed said that the right of way would revert to the United States if the railroad abandoned it.


So the government "granted" the land minus the railroad ROW in 1976. First of all, what does granted mean? Did they grant title for payment? Or were they just given the land for free?

So it's not as though the family owned the land. The government procured some of it for the railroad and then refused to turn it over when the railroad was abandoned. The railroad was already in place when the family was granted the land.

And now with the court decision the Brandts WILL get the ROW even though that was not part of the "grant" in 1976? I realize that this article may have misstated something, but this makes less sense than it did when I first started reading about this.
Robert
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#7 Posted : Thursday, March 20, 2014 4:59:48 PM(UTC)
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It's hard to say since we don't have access to the contract details, but it sounds to me like the government granted (gave, I assume) them the title to the land with the condition they could run a railroad through it (not anything else). So, now that the railroad isn't being utilized any longer, I presume the courts decided that land now belongs to the Brandts, not the Govt.

It really comes down to the terms and conditions of the grant. Maybe the government needs to learn to write and negotiate better contracts?
Happy Trails!

Lone_Star
Lone_Star
#8 Posted : Wednesday, March 26, 2014 7:13:19 PM(UTC)
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Call me cynical, but I believe the future of recreation could look something like this (flip thru the slideshow).

I hope I'm wrong!
Happy Trails!

Lone_Star
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