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Mountain States Legal Foundation v. Hodel

799 F.2d 1423 (1986) (en banc), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 951 (1987)

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Mountain States Legal Foundation v. Hodel

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

799 F.2d 1423 (1986) (en banc), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 951 (1987)

Facts

The Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA) (plaintiff) owned land in an area of Wyoming that included a mixture of federal and private property. Cattle owned by the RSGA and thousands of wild horses roamed the RSGA’s property and adjacent federal property. The Mountain States Legal Foundation (plaintiff) and the RSGA sought a writ of mandamus to compel various federal officials (defendants) to remove the wild horses from the private property. The plaintiffs also sought damages under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution for the uncompensated taking of their property. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that (1) the defendants had disregarded repeated requests to remove the wild horses; (2) the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (Act), 16 U.S.C. §§ 1331-40, prohibited the plaintiffs themselves from removing the horses; and (3) wild-horse grazing was causing property damage by eroding topsoil and reducing the availability of forage and water. The district court granted the plaintiffs’ writ of mandamus, but granted summary judgment for the defendants on the takings issue. A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded the grant of summary judgment, finding that the defendants’ complete and exclusive control over the wild horses made the Act a unique type of wildlife-protection legislation. The Tenth Circuit granted the defendants’ petition for rehearing en banc on the takings issue.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McKay, J.)

Dissent (Barrett, J.)

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