255 F.3d 787 (9th Cir. 2001), 99-15823, Adams v. United States

Docket Nº:99-15823
Citation:255 F.3d 787
Case Date:June 25, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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255 F.3d 787 (9th Cir. 2001)




No. 99-15823

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 25, 2001

Argued and Submitted April 12, 2001--San Francisco, California

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Steven Wolfe Thompson of Wolfe Thompson Llp, Las Vegas, Nevada, for the plaintiffs-appellants.

Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General, Kathryn E. Landreth, United States Attorney, Blaine T. Welsh, Assistant United States Attorney, and Donna S. Fitzgerald, William B. Lazarus, and Elizabeth A. Peterson of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the United States Department of Justice, Washington D.C., for the defendant-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada Lloyd D. George, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. CV-86-548 LDG

Before: Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain and William A. Fletcher, Circuit Judges, and Robert J. Kelleher,1 District Judge.

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Kelleher, District Judge

Opinion by Judge Kelleher


Plaintiffs Lester G. and Jean D. Adams (the "Adamses") bring this second appeal to determine the scope of their rights as inholders, owners of private property completely surrounded by federally owned National Forest System lands. In the first appeal, we remanded the matter to the district court to determine the rights and responsibilities of both parties to ensure access and stewardship of public land and to fashion an appropriate injunctive order. See Adams v. United States, 3 F.3d 1254, 1259-60 (9th Cir. 1993) (hereinafter"Adams I"). We have before us the question of whether the district court erred in ordering on remand that the Plaintiffs must apply for National Forest Service permits, that the United States be entitled to a right of way across Plaintiffs' land, and that a survey be stricken from the county records. Our jurisdiction arises pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1291.


The facts as follow were found by the district court in Adams v. United States, 687 F.Supp. 1479 (D. Nev. 1988), in its Order entered October 18, 1989, and on remand in its Amended Order entered February 8, 1999. Because many of the facts were set forth in Adams I, what follows is a truncated version containing the relevant facts for this appeal.

The United States acquired the land that would later become the Adamses' property in 1848 after the MexicanAmerican War. In 1892, the United States transferred this land to the State of Nevada; Nevada subsequently sold the land to private parties. On November 5, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt reserved the land surrounding the privately owned property for what has become the Toiyabe National Forest.

In 1964, the Adamses2 purchased the property from a prior private owner based upon the boundaries established by a 1939 survey.3 The Adamses' property consists of two tracts of land; the larger western tract is separated from the smaller eastern tract by National Forest land.

Frank Buol ("Buol"), a predecessor in title to Plaintiffs, granted the United States a deed (the "Buol Deed") evidencing a right of way fifty feet wide across the property (the "Buol right of way").4 This deed was recorded by the Clark County, Nevada Recorder's Office on October 5, 1937. The Adamses were advised of the claim of the United States to the Buol right of way by a letter dated November 1, 1973.

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Without Forest Service authorization, the Adamses have made numerous changes to National Forest land. Beginning in 1969, the Forest Service has repeatedly notified the Adamses that the Service is aware of the Adamses' unauthorized activities, and requested that the Adamses obtain permits for any activities on Forest Service land.5 Some areas of National Forest land that have been damaged by the Adamses' activities are accessible only by crossing the Adamses' property. Because the Adamses have denied the Forest Service access across their land, the Service has been unable to perform reclamation work on the damaged areas.

Clark Canyon Road6 originates in the National Forest to the west of the Adamses' land, crosses the Adamses' larger western tract, proceeds through the National Forest, and then enters the Adamses' smaller eastern tract where it terminates. Without Forest Service authorization, the Adamses widened and graded the entirety of Clark Canyon Road. This activity "effectively turned the road into a ditch," causing "erosion and damage to the road." Adams v. United States, CV-S-86-548-LDG, Sept. 20, 1991. In 1987, the Forest Service performed some reclamation work on the damaged portion of the road to the west of the Adamses' property. However, the Forest Service has not yet been able to perform reclamation work on the portion of the Clark Canyon Road that runs across National Forest land between the Adamses' two tracts of land, because the Service can access that portion of the road only by crossing the Adamses' land.

The Forest Service also plans to reclaim two other areas of the National Forest damaged by the Adamses' activities. The Adamses have built a switchback -a zigzag road traversing a mountainous region -entirely on National Forest land (the "North Canyon Switchback"). The Forest Service plans to reclaim the North Canyon Switchback in its entirety. The Adamses have also constructed a fuel break road (the"Fuel Break Road") along the southern boundary of their western tract which crosses onto National Forest land in three areas. The Forest Service plans to reclaim these three segments of the Fuel Break Road, to re-fill the road cut, and re-vegetate the reclaimed slopes. The Forest Service can reach the Switchback and the Fuel Break Road only by crossing the Adamses' land.

In 1995, the Forest Service discovered that the Adamses had made additional unauthorized changes to the National Forest land lying between the Adamses' western and eastern tracts which included the construction of a new road segment and a ditch, alteration of the drainage channel, installation of a plastic culvert approximately one hundred feet long, and destruction of vegetation.


In 1986, the Adamses initiated this action, seeking to quiet title based upon an alleged discrepancy between the boundaries of their property as shown in the 1939 Survey and on a 1881 plat map, and seeking to quiet title in an easement for access to their land. The United States counterclaimed, asserting that the Adamses had trespassed on National Forest System land, and seeking damages and an

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injunction barring the Adamses from further trespasses.

Both parties moved for summary judgment on all claims. The district court held that the Adamses' first cause of action, a quiet title action regarding their boundaries, was barred by the statute of limitations in the Quiet Title Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2409a(g). See Adams v. United States, 687 F.Supp. at 1486-89. It held that the Adamses' fourth cause of action, for a declaration to cancel the Buol Deed, was also time-barred by the statute of limitations in the Quiet Title Act. See id. at 1491-93. The court denied summary judgment on the easement and trespass issues. See id. at 1489-91, 1493.

After a bench trial, the district court found that the Adamses were not entitled to an easement over Clark Canyon Road, and that most of the Adamses' work done on National Forest land constituted acts of trespass, for which it awarded the United States damages of $11,000. The court enjoined the Adamses from further use or occupancy of National Forest lands without first obtaining the appropriate permits from the National Forest Service.

In Adams I, we held that the lower court's injunction was too broad because "the Clark Canyon Road is open to the public, including the Adamses, without a permit. " 3 F.3d at 1257. We...

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