The case of Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust et al., v. United States, challenges the right of the United States to convert a federally-granted right-of-way into a rail-trail, a right established by Congress and long fought for and protected by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
On January 14, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the case. We expect a decision in June.
The Brandt property lies along the corridor of the Medicine Bow Rail Trail in Wyoming, a former disused rail corridor inside Medicine Bow National Forest that was converted into a public trail by the U.S. Forest Service and local supporters.
The Mountain States Legal Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Pacific Legal Foundation are supporting the Brandts' 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 public lands.
A loss in the Supreme Court would not only block the completion of the Medicine Bow Rail Trail, but could also threaten existing rail-trails across America that utilize federally-granted rights-of-way. 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.