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U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association
United States Supreme Court
140 S. Ct. 1837 (2020)
The Mineral Leasing Act authorized the United States Forest Service (the Forest Service) (defendant) to grant pipeline rights-of-way through federal lands in national forests. The act excluded National Park System (park system) lands from its definition of federal lands. Thus, the Mineral Leasing Act permitted the Forest Service to grant pipeline rights-of-way for land under its jurisdiction but not for lands under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service (the Park Service). The Appalachian Trail was established pursuant to the National Trails System Act (the Trails Act). Pursuant to the Trails Act, the Forest Service granted the Park Service right-of-way so that the Park Service could construct approximately 780 miles of the Appalachian Trail within national forests, including the George Washington National Forest. Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic) wanted to construct a 604-mile natural gas pipeline extending from West Virginia to North Carolina that crossed land within the George Washington National Forest, including parts of the Appalachian Trail. The Forest Service granted Atlantic special-use permits to construct the pipeline in the forest, as well as a right-of-way permitting Atlantic to place a portion of the pipeline below the Appalachian Trail. Cowpasture River Preservation Association (Cowpasture) (plaintiff) and others petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to review the Forest Service’s grant of the special-use permits and the pipeline right-of-way. The court found for Cowpasture, reasoning that the Mineral Leasing Act did not authorize the Forest Service to grant pipeline rights-of-way across the Appalachian Trail because the Forest Service had granted the Park Service right-of-way, and thus jurisdiction, over the Appalachian Trail. The Forest Service appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)
Dissent (Sotomayor, J.)
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