There is an interesting case which was argued in front of the Supremes on January 14th: a Wyoming man is suing to prevent the Forest Service from building a rails-to-trails trail section, 28 miles in length, on his land.
The man’s parents were “granted” the land by the federal government in 1976, subject to the federal government’s previous grant of a right of way for a railroad, which in fact operated on the property from 1904 to 2003.
The man’s lawyers argue — so very poignantly! — that even money isn’t enough to compensate the man for his loss: “Just compensation, however, is cold comfort for having to endure the disruption and inconvenience of having essentially a ‘linear park’ on one’s property: [I]t appears beyond cavil that use of these easements for a recreational trail – for walking, hiking, biking, picnicking, Frisbee playing, with newly-added tarmac pavement, park benches, occasional billboards, and fences to enclose the trail way – is not the same use made by a railroad, involving tracks, depots, and the running of trains.”
In a newspaper interview, one of the lawyers calls the federal rails-to-trails program “a massive land grab.” Hmmm.
Let me get this straight. The land in question was granted to the family by the federal government, which had already granted a railroad company a right of way, which railroad tracks operated actively across the property for about 100 years. Now the family doesn’t want the feds to make a rails-to-trails segment on their land.
So, there’s this “non-profit foundation” involved in the case. RIGHT! Nonprofit sounds good, right? WRONG!
Their statement about their “tax-exempt” purpose states: “NARPO is a non-profit, tax exempt foundation dedicated to principles that private property ownership must be maintained in the hands of citizens and not the government. NARPO’s major goal is to assist property owners in maintaining their complete land ownership and resisting government confiscation. We hope to keep you up to date on the latest court cases and federal and state law changes that effect the property rights of reversionary property owners to railroad rights-of-way.”
SO, when people were homesteaded property by the federal government, AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT RESERVED RIGHTS OF WAY ACROSS THAT VERY SAME HOMESTEADED PROPERTY, THEIR DESCENDANTS, who profited and prospered by the federal government’s actions in “homesteading” property to their ancestors in order to “encourage the development of this nation,” SHOULDN’T BE MADE TO HONOR THOSE RIGHTS OF WAY? Oh, I see! You got the land from your government, your government told you it was maintaining some rights over that land, but now, when the government wants to USE those rights, you don’t want to let it!
Oh, this seems legit.