Monday, March 26, 2012

Scarborough Citizens v. US Fish and Wildlife Service

Mar 22: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit, Case No. 11-1597. Appealed from the District Court of Maine, Portland. The litigation concerns a segment of the Eastern Trail in Scarborough, Maine. The Eastern Trail is a public recreational trail which is part of a network of trails running along the Eastern Seaboard. The portion of the Trail at issue in this case is over three miles long, runs through a 32-acre tract of land owned by the state of Maine, and is used in part for recreation and to access the state-managed Scarborough Marsh Wildlife Management Area.
    An association and several individuals who regularly use the Trail for recreating and hunting, and who support wildlife conservation (Scarborough Citizens) brought suit against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and its Northeast
Regional Director, as well as the Governor of Maine and the Commissioners of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Scarborough Citizens alleged that easements conveyed by the State on the parcel of land violate the law.
    In its appeal, Scarborough Citizens argues that the State agency has repeatedly violated the Wildlife Restoration Act and federal regulations in varying respects by conveying nearly ten easements on various portions of the Eastern Trail between 1968 and 2005. The Appeals Court indicates, "The gist of the claim is that these conveyances resulted in uses of the land, initially purchased with funds from the Wildlife Restoration Act, contrary to the purposes for which it was initially acquired."
    The Appeals Court rules, ". . .the federal government funded the state's purchase of the property, but it neither funded nor approved the later grant of any of the easements. USFWS may have the power to withhold future funding from the state if the easement violated the regulations and the state does not remedy the violation, 50 C.F.R. § 80.14 (2010), but (to repeat) this power is discretionary. As we conclude that there is no reviewable federal action, neither the federal nor the state officials can be held liable for violating NEPA, as a major federal action is a prerequisite for either."
    Regarding violations of State law, the Appeals Court rules, "As we agree with the district court's dismissal of the federal claims in this suit, there is no abuse of discretion in its decision to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Land, #CA1]
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