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Andrus v. Idaho

Citation: 10 ELR 20448
No. No. 79-260, 445 U.S. 715/(U.S., 04/16/1980)

The Supreme Court holds that the Carey Act of 1894 neither reserves a specific acreage of public domain desert land for any state nor automatically obligates the Secretary of the Interior to grant specific lands chosen by a state. In order to aid states in the reclamation of desert land, the Carey Act authorizes the Secretary to grant to a state, upon proper application, a maximum specified acreage of land in the public domain if the state demonstrates its ability to irrigate and reclaim it. The State of Idaho challenged the Bureau of Land Management's denial of its request for a specific tract arguing that at its passage the Act bound the United States to grant any lands requested by a state. The district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling that the Act did not grant the state an absolute right to the specified acreage. The Supreme Court first holds that notwithstanding the failure of the state to exhaust its administrative remedies, there is a case or controversy between the parties because the Court's construction of the Carey Act will ultimately determine their respective rights and obligations. Affirming in part and reversing in part, the Court rejects that portion of the lower court's judgment which declares that Idaho is "entitled" to 2.4 million acres of Carey Act lands and that the Secretary is obligated to grant such lands. Rather, based on a review of the statutory history and the Interior Department's prior construction of the Act, the Court holds that the Carey Act neither automatically reserves to the state a specific acreage nor obligates the Secretary to approve automatically a state's request for specific lands.

In dissent, Justice Stevens finds the issues dealt with by the Court not ripe for decision.

Counsel for Petitioner
William Alsup, Ass't to the Solicitor General
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-4279

Edward J. Shawaker
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2813

Counsel for Respondents
Josephine P. Beeman, W. Hugh O'Riordan, Deputy Attorneys General
State House, Boise ID 83720
(208) 384-2400