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Clajon Prod. Corp. v. Petera

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 20213
Nos. Nos. 94-8071, -8103, 70 F.3d 1566/(10th Cir., 11/20/1995)

The court holds that Wyoming hunting license regulations do not violate the Takings and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The regulations create separate pools for allocating licenses to residents and nonresidents and limit owners of 160 or more acres to two supplemental licenses. The court first holds that plaintiff ranchers, who supply outfitting services, lack standing to bring a Commerce Clause challenge to the license-pool regulation. Because the ranchers have not established that the regulation interferes with their ability to provide commercial hunting services to out-of-state residents, they have not established injury-in-fact. The ranchers assert that nonresident hunters spend disproportionately greater amounts on commercial hunting services and hunting rights than do Wyoming customers and that the license allocation scheme denies the ranchers access to a profitable pool of nonresident customers. The court holds that the ranchers must demonstrate that Wyoming's allocation between in-state and out-of-state licenses disproportionately disadvantages nonresidents by failing adequately to approximate the ratio of demand between in-state and out-of-state hunters. The court finds, however, that there is no evidence that the regulations impose a greater burden on nonresidents wishing to hunt in Wyoming than they do on residents.

The court holds that the regulation limiting large landowners to two supplemental licenses does not constitute an unconstitutional taking. Addressing environmental group intervenors' argument that the ranchers' takings claim is not ripe for review because the ranchers failed to first seek compensation in state court, the court holds that the claim is ripe because the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, which promulgated the regulation, lacks the power of eminent domain and, thus, is not subject to Wyoming's inverse condemnation procedure. The court rejects the ranchers' argument that the court must focus on the regulation's impact on their "right to hunt." The relevant "denominator" must be derived from the entire bundle of rights associated with the parcel of land. The court finds that viewed in this context, the regulation does not effect a destruction of all beneficial use of the ranchers' parcel because the ranchers still can use their property for ranching, farming, and other livestock operations. Noting that the "essential nexus" test of Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, 17 ELR 20918 (U.S. 1987), and the "rough proportionality" test of Dolan v. City of Tigard, 24 ELR 21083 (U.S. 1994), are limited to development exactions, the court holds that the regulation substantially advances the legitimate state interest in conserving game animals and affording a reasonable opportunity to hunt to its residents.

The court next turns to the ranchers' Equal Protection Clause claim. The court rejects defendants' ripeness argument, then holds that the claim must be analyzed under rational basis review rather than strict scrutiny and that the state's effort to balance its conservation policies and desire to offer all of its citizens as well as its large landowners an opportunity to hunt is sufficient to withstand rational basis scrutiny. Finally, the court affirms the district court's ruling that the environmental groups are not entitled to attorney fees, because the case presents novel and difficult legal questions whose merit worthiness is underlined by the close consideration the court afforded them.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
John MacPherson
MacPherson Law Offices
419 W. Maple St., P.O. Box 999, Rawlins WY 82301
(307) 324-2713

Counsel for Defendants
Ron Arnold, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
123 State Capitol, Cheyenne WY 82002
(307) 777-7841

Before Baldock and Alarcon,1 JJ.