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United States v. Ripplinger

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20828
Nos. 00-2532, (8th Cir., 07/11/2001)

The court affirms a district court grant of summary judgment to the government in an action brought to enforce a wetlands easement the government held on an individual's property. The government purchased the perpetual easement in 1967 for waterfowl management, and the individual acquired title to the tract covered by the easement in 1990. Subsequently, the individual's U.S. Department of Agriculture benefits were revoked when it was determined that he had violated the Swampbusters Act by converting protected wetlands by adding fill. The individual entered a Wetlands Restoration Agreement to obtain reinstatement of his benefits, but he failed to restore the wetlands as promised in the agreement. The government brought suit to enforce the easement, the district court granted summary judgment to the government, and the individual appealed.

The court first holds that the individual's claim that the district court granted summary judgment on a basis not argued by the parties need not be addressed because summary judgment was proper regardless. Uncontroverted evidence showed that the property was a naturally occurring wetland, and the individual offered no evidence that the easement prevented only complete filling or that the area still functions as a waterfowl production area. The court also holds that the easement did not permit the individual to deposit fill in the wetland before cutting hay. The easement permitted farming practices such as cutting hay but only when the wetlands were dry from natural causes.

Counsel for Appellee
Lynn Crooks, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
655 First Ave. N., Fargo ND 58102
(701) 239-5671

Counsel for Appellant
Robert V. Bolinske
Law Offices of Robert V. Bolinske
515 N. 4th St., Bismarck ND 58501
(701) 222-2035

Before Hansen, Arnold, and Bye, JJ. (per curiam)