Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Supreme Court's Decision a Major Setback for Rail Trails

 Medicine Bow Rail Trail. Image source: http://www.traillink.com/trail-photos/medicine-bow-rail-trail.aspx

Building trails on abandoned rails may become more difficult due to yesterday's Supreme Court ruling.  In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that land owners are not required to continue granting a federal right-of-way to abandoned rail lines. 

According to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, "there are hundreds of federally granted rights-of-way corridors across the country, many of which have been converted into publicly accessible trails. This erosion of protections for these public lands in the Supreme Court not only may block the completion of the Medicine Bow Rail Trail through the former rail corridor, but also threatens existing rail-trails, mainly in the West, that utilize federally-granted rights-of-way and are not railbanked." 

The complete ruling of Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust et al. v. United States, in which a Wyoming man sued the government when he was told they retained the abandoned and sold railroad right-of-way that crossed his 83 acres of land near the Medicine Bow National Forest, can be viewed at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-1173_nlio.pdf.

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