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San Juan County v. United States

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20254
Nos. No. 04-4260, (10th Cir., 10/02/2007)

The Tenth Circuit held that conservation groups may not intervene in a federal quiet title action brought by a Utah county against the U.S. government to quiet title to an unpaved road in the Canyonlands National Park. The groups opposed county control of the road and therefore sought to intervene as a matter of right under Rule 24(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and permissively under Rule 24(b). The lower court properly denied their applications. The groups need not establish standing. Nor does sovereign immunity bar the groups' intervention. However, the groups failed to overcome the presumption that their interest was adequately represented by the federal defendants as required by Rule 24(a)(2). The groups gave the court no reason to believe that the federal defendants have any interest in relinquishing to the county any part of the federal title to the road. The U.S. government may wish to compromise with the county concerning use of the road, but nothing has indicated that they would do so by transferring an easement and the authority that goes with it. If developments after the original application for intervention undermine the presumption that the federal defendants will adequately represent the groups' interest, the matter may be revisited. The lower court's denial of the groups' application for permissive intervention was proper as well.