Hatmaker v. Georgia Department of Transportation

973 F. Supp. 1058 (1997)

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Hatmaker v. Georgia Department of Transportation

United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia
973 F. Supp. 1058 (1997)

  • Written by Jody Stuart, JD

Facts

An action was brought against the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) (collectively, the agencies) (defendants) in connection with a federally funded road-widening project that would destroy a tree known as Friendship Oak. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia issued a preliminary injunction based on a finding that the approval by the secretary of USDOT (secretary) of federal funds for the project violated § 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act. The secretary had been improperly precluded from deciding whether Friendship Oak was eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) because GDOT had not included any information about the tree in GDOT’s application for federal funds. If the tree was eligible for the NRHP, the tree was required to be protected by § 4(f). The court remanded the case to the secretary for a determination of whether the tree was entitled to § 4(f) protection. Subsequently, GDOT conducted an extensive study of the historic value of Friendship Oak with respect to the criteria for eligibility for inclusion on the NRHP. GDOT researched the historic associations of the tree in several contexts, including Native Americans, early trails and roads, land surveys, the Civil War, lynchings, landmark-tree registers, the Spanish-American War, and general local significance. GDOT did not find evidence of any direct or significant associations between Friendship Oak and these historic contexts. GDOT submitted its evidence and conclusions to the secretary. The secretary then conducted an independent review of GDOT’s evaluation and reached an independent determination that the tree was not eligible for inclusion on the NRHP. Afterward, the agencies filed a motion to dissolve and dismiss.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Sands, J.)

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