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U.S. Supreme Court asked to weigh in on Stanley trail case

 The entrance to a gravel trail connecting Stanley to Redfish Lake.
Rachel Cohen
Boise State Public Radio
The 4.5-mile trail begins in Stanley's Pioneer Park and ends near the entrance to Redfish Lake.

The owners of a Sawtooth Valley ranch are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a case over a public trail that crosses their property.

The 4.5-mile-long trail connects Stanley to Redfish Lake within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It opened last summer after nearly a decade of planning.

The U.S. Forest Service purchased a $1.8 million conservation easement for the trail crossing the private ranch in 2005. Ranch owners David Boren and Lynn Arnone did not own the property when the easement was secured, but in 2019, they filed a lawsuit to block the trail’s construction. They argued the path and its particular location violated federal environmental laws.

A district court judge ruled in favor of the Forest Service, and Boren and Arnone appealed to the 9th Circuit. The appeal focused on whether Boren and Arnone had filed their lawsuit too late.

Lawyers for the Forest Service argued that the lawsuit was filed after the 12-year statute of limitations had expired for quiet title cases – property disputes against the government. They said the clock started ticking in 2005 when the government purchased the easement.

Boren and Arnone said they only became aware of plans for the public trail when the Forest Service published them in 2014. They were surprised that the plans included slightly raising the trail and putting down gravel.

However, last fall, 9th Circuit judges again sided with the Forest Service. They said it should’ve been evident from the time the easement was signed that the government would need to construct a trail there for public use.

Boren and Arnone tried to get the 9th Circuit to rehear the case, but it declined in January. So, they filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court last week. A lawyer for the couple did not want to comment on the case Wednesday.

The Sawtooth ranch owners want the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether their claim about the easement is time-barred and whether they have any relief available under the Fifth Amendment, given that they’re seeking an injunction in the case and not monetary compensation. The Supreme Court is scheduled to respond by May 13.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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