Friday, July 18, 2008

Burlison v. USA

Jul 17: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, Case No. 06-6369. The case concerns an appeal by the United States from a district-court decision holding that landowners in Tennessee possess an easement over a field-access road that traverses the Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge. The landowners (Plaintiffs-Appellees) sought to quiet title to the access road pursuant to the Quiet Title Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2409a, and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee entered judgment in their favor. The United States also appeals the district court’s holding that the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, 16 U.S.C. § 668dd, as amended, does not give Congress or the United States Fish and Wildlife Service the authority to regulate Plaintiffs-Appellees’ easement, which “predate[d] the Government’s ownership of the servient tenement.” Burlison v. United States, (W.D. Tenn. Aug. 31, 2006).

The Appeals Court said, "We agree that Plaintiffs-Appellees have an easement by reservation over the field-access road. We also hold, however, that the federal government has the power under 16 U.S.C. § 668dd(d)(1)(b), enacted pursuant to the Property Clause, to regulate in a reasonable manner Plaintiffs-Appellees’ use of their easement. Therefore, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in part and reversed in part.

The Appeals Court ruled further saying, "We note that remand is not appropriate at this time because Plaintiffs-Appellees have refused to apply for the Special Use Permit required by the Fish and Wildlife Service. For this same reason, we express no opinion on the reasonableness of any current or future restriction or regulation on Plaintiffs-Appellees’ use of the easement, as that question is not properly before us at this time, but is instead a question to be decided on the basis of the permit. Once Plaintiffs-Appellees apply for this permit, in the case that it is denied or in the case that Plaintiffs-Appellees find the restrictions set forth under the permit to be unreasonable, they can bring suit in federal district court to challenge the reasonableness of the regulations imposed by the Fish and Wildlife Service."

Access the complete opinion (
click here).

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