FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:December 6, 2013
CONTACT:Jake LynchMedia RelationsRails-to-Trails Conservancyjake@railstotrails.org202.974.5107
Washington, D.C. - A case scheduled to be heard in the Supreme Court over the
next few months could jeopardize America's program of repurposing disused rail
corridors as public multi-use trails, that has provided thousands of miles of
hiking, biking, equestrian and snowmobile pathways across America over the past
At issue in Marvin M.
Brandt Revocable Trust et al., v. United States is whether the
American people retain a reversionary interest in railroad rights-of-way that were
created by the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875, after the cessation
of railroad activity on the corridor.
a national trail building and advocacy organization that has been instrumental
in the creation of more than 1,800 rail-trails across the country since the
mid-1980s, will file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in December to
defend the public ownership of a former rail corridor inside Wyoming's Medicine
Bow National Forest.
"The case affects more than a century of federal laws and
policies protecting the public's interest in railroad corridors created through
public lands - and could have lasting impacts on the future of rail-trails
across the country," says Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's General Counsel, Andrea
The corridor in this case passes through a section of land
surrounded by Medicine Bow National Forest that the U.S. Forest Service
patented to the Brandt family in 1976. Crossing near the boundary of that
parcel is a 200-foot wide corridor of federally-owned land that had been
granted to the Laramie, Hahn's Peak and Pacific Railway company in 1908, for
the purpose of constructing a railroad.
"Recognizing the great importance of providing public access
to the nation's public lands, in 2007 the U.S. Forest Service and local
supporters converted most of that disused corridor into the Medicine Bow Rail
Trail," says Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Senior Vice President of Policy and
Trail Development Kevin Mills. "It is now a beautiful and popular rail-trail, as
well as a significant asset for the state's outdoor recreation economy."
The spectacular 21-mile rail-trail has one disconnection
point - the Brandt property. The Mountain States Legal Foundation, the Cato
Institute and the Pacific Legal Foundation are supporting the Brandt's effort
to sue the United States to bring the public corridor into private ownership
and prevent its reuse as a publically accessible rail-trail. All three
organizations have a history of launching legal action to reduce protection of
The U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming and,
later, the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, found that the United States
did have a reversionary interest in the corridor, that this federally-held
right-of-way could be made available as rail-trail, and rejected the Brandt's
claim of ownership. However, unsatisfied with these rulings, and supported by
well-financed interests, the Brandts continue to
"These federally-granted rights-of-way have played a key
role in the nation's rail-trail movement, which has built thousands of miles of
hiking, biking, equestrian, skiing and snowmobile pathways across America over
the past 25 years," Mills says. "An erosion of protections of these public
lands in the Supreme Court would not only potentially block the completion of
the Medicine Bow Rail Trail, but could also threaten existing rail-trails
that utilize federally-granted rights-of-way. We are defending the original
intent of the legislation that explicitly held that these linear public spaces
should remain of, and for, the people. Just like our national parks, these
former rail corridors are public assets in which we all share and
There are hundreds of federally-granted rights-of-way
corridors across the country, many of which have been converted into publically
accessible trails. Some of the better-known rail-trails that occupy
federally-granted rights-of-way include the George S. Mickelson Trail in South Dakota, the Foothills Trail and the John Wayne
Pioneer trails in Washington, the Weiser River
Trail in Idaho and the Rio Grande Trail in Colorado.
is the only national organization in America solely committed to
defending the preservation of former railroad corridors for continued public
use. Its work to defend this, and many other, rail corridors across the country
is funded entirely by members and supporters.
Oral argument in the case is set for January 14, with a
decision expected later in 2014.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization with more than 100,000 members, is the nation's largest trails organization dedicated to connecting people and communities by creating a nationwide network of public trails, many from former rail lines and connecting corridors. Founded in 1986, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's national office is located in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For more information visit www.railstotrails.org.
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
Washington, DC 20037