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Court Win Preserves Medicine Bow Rail Corridor in Wyoming

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) this week earned a significant win against ongoing litigation threats to preserving America's inactive rail corridors for public use.

RTC General Counsel Andrea Ferster, assisted by pro bono counsel (and former RTC board member) Charles Montange, filed an amicus ("friend of the court") brief in a case in which private landowners were attempting to challenge the United States' ownership of the corridor, which was originally acquired by the railroad through federal land grants. 

The rail line in question is on the same corridor as the popular Medicine Bow Rail-Trail, one of Wyoming's most successful trails, which was built by the U.S. Forest Service and spurred by the enthusiasm and monetary support of the citizens of Wyoming and nearby Colorado (right). The disputed section is approximately 30 miles east of the developed Medicine Bow Rail-Trail and represents a terrific opportunity to extend the Medicine Bow and transform a day-ride into an overnight destination trail and tourism asset .

A small group of neighboring landowners, however, have challenged the right of the United States to preserve the corridor intact and for the public benefit, a right established under federal law, including Section 9(c) of the National Trails System Act.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit rejected the appeal of the landowners, reaffirming the government's right under these federal statutes to secure the corridor for future conversion into a rail-trail. In doing so, the Court declined to follow a number of recent decisions from other circuits, which refused to recognize that the United States retains an ownership interest in all federally granted rights-of-way under federal law.

Though it doesn't receive the public profile of many of our trail-building and advocacy efforts, the work of RTC's legal program, and our General Counsel Andrea Ferster, involves perhaps our most critical challenge: preserving the corridors. Each time these public assets are transferred into private hands and fragmented, America loses not only the opportunity to build a public pathway, a tourism asset, or a community connector, it also loses a piece of its railroading and pioneering history.

For more about RTC's legal work to rail-trail future, visit www.railstotrails.org/ourWork.

Posted Thu, Sep 13 2012 12:30 PM by Jake Lynch


Jayne wrote re: Court Win Preserves Medicine Bow Rail Corridor in Wyoming
on Fri, Oct 12 2012 1:37 PM

This legislation is key, not only now, but 100 years from now when the people living in that area of Wyoming, and along the Colorado border, will appreciate preservation of this open space for public use instead of industrial and residential developments.

I am a former truck driver who appreciated the beauty of that region as I drove through there regularly years ago.

Ken wrote re: Court Win Preserves Medicine Bow Rail Corridor in Wyoming
on Sat, Oct 13 2012 11:07 AM

We roade the Medicine Bow trail last summer and surprised a moose drinking from a pond adjacent to the trail. Such ntural wonders need to be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Gail M wrote re: Court Win Preserves Medicine Bow Rail Corridor in Wyoming
on Sat, Oct 13 2012 4:44 PM

My husband and I biked the Medicine Bow Rail to Trail last summer and enjoyed it immensely!  We planned our trip from Reno to WI. with the goal to bike at least two trails enroute and more in WI. We recognize the value in open space, the ability of nature and exercise to restore out health and our spirit.  As a hospital worker of 35 years, and the victim of a car vs bike, I value the ability to ride bike and enjoy the outdoors safely.  

Richard Gieseler wrote re: Court Win Preserves Medicine Bow Rail Corridor in Wyoming
on Sun, Oct 14 2012 10:18 AM

I'm member 6237104 from Colorado. My buddy Anne and I scouted and rode the Medicine Bow Trail the last week of August and were vastly impressed.  It connects the area's tourist towns, forest service campgrounds and hundreds of square miles of public forested land.  There is lots of lumbering to harvest pine beetle kill trees and reduce fire danger.  That only adds to the interest in the landscape.  The north end of the grade loops around the town of Albany, consisting of a big rustic lodge, rental atvs and rental homes.  Suitable for your gang of bike buddies. Hmmm.  When you call the Albany Lodge to inquire about reservations, ask about access to the rail trail.  It may motivate the owners to remove the No Trespassing signs for you. Like many rail trails the Medicine Bow is an undiscovered goodie.  I have more info at rgizler@gmail.com

Andrew wrote re: Court Win Preserves Medicine Bow Rail Corridor in Wyoming
on Fri, Oct 19 2012 2:57 AM

Keep the track intact and build a path beside it, less legal mess!

RTC TrailBlog wrote Rails-to-Trails Conservancy to defend rail-trails in the Supreme Court: Wyoming landowner threatens public ownership of rail corridors
on Wed, Oct 23 2013 10:47 AM

You can help support our efforts to defend trails across the country. For only the second time in history


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