Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

United States Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Ass'n

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20148
Nos. 18-1584, (U.S., 06/15/2020)

The U.S. Supreme Court held, 7-2, that the Forest Service had authority under the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) to issue a special use permit that granted a right-of-way for a segment of a natural gas pipeline to be constructed beneath the Appalachian Trail in George Washington National Forest. Environmental groups argued the issuance of the permit violated the MLA, NEPA, the National Forest Management Act, and the APA. The Fourth Circuit had held that the MLA did not empower the Service to grant the right-of-way beneath the trail because the trail was National Park System land, through which pipeline rights-of-way were prohibited under the MLA. The Supreme Court concluded that the trail was not National Park System land, but rather a right-of-way under the administrative supervision of the National Park Service that granted an easement across the land but not jurisdiction over the land itself. It thus held that the land continued to be federal land under the MLA through which the Forest Service could grant a pipeline right-of-way, and reversed the judgment of the Fourth Circuit and remanded for further proceedings. Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Breyer, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, JJ., joined, and in which Ginsburg, J., joined except as to Part III-B-2. Sotomayor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Kagan, J., joined.