420 F.3d 1197 (10th Cir. 2005), 04-4260, San Juan County, Utah v. United States

Docket Nº:04-4260.
Citation:420 F.3d 1197
Party Name:SAN JUAN COUNTY, UTAH, a Utah political subdivision, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. UNITED STATES of America; Department of Interior; National Park Service, Defendants-Appellees, Alaska Wilderness League, California Wilderness Coalition, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Colorado Mountain Club, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, National Parks Conservation Ass
Case Date:August 30, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
 
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420 F.3d 1197 (10th Cir. 2005)

SAN JUAN COUNTY, UTAH, a Utah political subdivision, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

UNITED STATES of America; Department of Interior; National Park Service, Defendants-Appellees,

Alaska Wilderness League, California Wilderness Coalition, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Colorado Mountain Club, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Refuge Association, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sierra Club, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Wyoming Outdoor Council, State of Utah, Amici Curiae,

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, a Utah non-profit corporation; Grand Canyon Trust; The Wilderness Society, Movants-Appellants.

No. 04-4260.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.

Aug. 30, 2005

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Heidi J. McIntosh, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (Stephen H.M. Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Salt Lake City, UT; Edward B. Zukoski, Earthjustice,

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Denver, CO, with her on the briefs), Salt Lake City, UT, for Movants-Appellants.

Aaron P. Avila, (Thomas L. Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General, Paul M. Warner, United States Attorney, Carlie Christiansen, Assistant United States Attorney, Bruce D. Bernard and John L. Smeltzer, Washington, DC, and G. Kevin Jones, Office of the Solicitor, Salt Lake City, UT, with him on the briefs), Washington, DC, for Defendants-Appellees United States of America, Department of Interior, and National Park Service.

Shawn T. Welch and A. John Davis, Pruitt Gushee, P.C., Salt Lake City, UT, on the brief for Plaintiff-Appellee San Juan County.

Rebecca L. Bernard, Trustees for Alaska, Anchorage, AK, on the brief for Amici Curiae Alaska Wilderness League, California Wilderness Coalition, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Colorado Mountain Club, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Refuge Association, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sierra Club, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, and Wyoming Outdoor Council.

Mark L. Shurtleff, Utah Attorney General, Edward O. Ogilvie, Assistant Utah Attorney General and Jaysen R. Oldroyd, Assistant Utah Attorney General, on the brief for Amicus Curiae State of Utah.

Before SEYMOUR, PORFILIO, and EBEL, Circuit Judges.

EBEL, Circuit Judge.

In this federal quiet title action brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2409a, San Juan County, Utah ("San Juan") seeks both to quiet title in a right-of-way along a portion of Salt Creek running through the Canyonlands National Park, and a declaratory judgment that the National Park Service ("NPS") cannot use a gate to restrict San Juan's right-of-way. Three conservation groups, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Wilderness Society and the Grand Canyon Trust (collectively "SUWA"), sought to intervene, both permissively and as a matter of right. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 24. The district court denied intervention. SUWA appeals. 1 In reversing the district court's decision, we hold that 1) prospective intervenors do not have to establish their own standing, in addition to meeting Rule 24's requirements, before they can intervene; and 2) SUWA is entitled to intervene as a matter of right.

I. BACKGROUND

A. San Juan's quiet title action.

San Juan claims its right-of-way under "Section 8 of the Mining Act of 1866, ... later codified as Revised Statute 2477." Revised Statute 2477, later codified at 43 U.S.C. § 932, "was enacted by Congress in 1866 to assist in the development of the West by granting rights of way for construction of highways over public lands to miners, farmers, ranchers, and homesteaders." Southwest Four Wheel Drive Ass'n v. Bur. of Land Mgmt., 271 F.Supp.2d 1308, 1313 n. 8 (D.N.M.2003) (quotation omitted), aff'd, 363 F.3d 1069 (10th Cir. 2004). This statute "granted a right of way for the construction of highways over public lands ... not reserved for public uses." Sierra Club v. Hodel, 848 F.2d 1068, 1078 (10th Cir. 1988) (quotation omitted), overruled in part on other grounds by Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque v. Marsh, 956 F.2d 970, 973 (10th Cir. 1992) (en banc). "[A] right-of-way could be obtained without application to, or approval by, the federal government. Rather, the grant referred to in R.S. 2477 became

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effective upon the construction or establishing of highways, in accordance with the State laws." Id. (citations, quotations and alterations omitted). Although Congress repealed R.S. 2477 in 1976, it "explicitly protect[ed] R.S. 2477 rights-of-way in existence" at that time. Id. In this quiet title action, San Juan asserts that "[t]he Salt Creek road" running along Salt Creek "was used and constructed as a public thoroughfare for decades prior to the [federal government's] reserv[ing] the underlying lands for Canyonlands" National Park in 1962.

B. Other related litigation.

SUWA's motion to intervene in San Juan's quiet title action cannot be understood without discussing the broader ongoing litigation between these parties concerning whether, and to what extent, motorized traffic should be allowed on the R.S. 2477 right-of-way San Juan is now claiming. In the 1990s, the NPS prepared a "Backcountry Management Plan" for Canyonlands National Park. 2 See S. Utah Wilderness Alliance v. Dabney, 7 F.Supp.2d 1205, 1207-09 (D.Utah 1998), rev'd, 222 F.3d 819 (10th Cir. 2000). During that process, SUWA submitted comments to the NPS advocating closing Salt Creek Road to all motorized traffic. Instead, the NPS's final plan called for a permit system that would limit, but not eliminate, daily vehicle traffic on Salt Creek Road. See Dabney, 7 F.Supp.2d at 1208-09; Canyonlands National Park-Salt Creek Canyon 69 Fed.Reg. at 32,871 (June 14, 2004) (to be codified at 36 C.F.R. pt.1). SUWA sued the NPS in 1995, challenging this decision. See Dabney, 7 F.Supp.2d at 1206, 1209. In that case, the federal district court held that the NPS had violated the National Park Service Organic Act by permitting motorized vehicles in Salt Creek Canyon above Peekaboo Spring. See id. at 1210-12. This court reversed that determination, however, holding that the district court had employed an improper standard in reaching its decision. See S. Utah Wilderness Alliance v. Dabney, 222 F.3d 819, 822, 824-30 (10th Cir. 2000). This court remanded the case to the district court, see id. at 830, where it remains pending.

As a result of the district court's 1998 decision, later overturned in 2000, there was no motorized traffic in the canyon for several years. "Trees and other vegetation ... returned to the vehicle tracks, and sections of the stream channel ... moved, since motorized vehicles were prohibited." In light of these changes, the NPS decided in 2001 to prepare an environmental assessment to re-evaluate allowing motorized vehicles in Salt Creek Canyon. See 69 Fed.Reg. at 32,872. SUWA again submitted comments against allowing any motorized traffic along the road. The NPS this time agreed with SUWA and closed Salt Creek Canyon above Peekaboo campsite to all motorized traffic, erecting a gate to accomplish the closure. See 69 Fed.Reg. at 32,871.

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Meanwhile, following this court's remand of SUWA's action challenging the NPS's original decision refusing to close Salt Creek Canyon to all vehicle traffic, the federal district court, in 2001, permitted SUWA to amend its complaint to add San Juan and the State of Utah as defendants. Although "[n]either the State nor the County ... asserted a cross-claim against the NPS, and they did not assert a counterclaim against SUWA," San Juan and the State filed a motion for partial summary judgment in that action against SUWA "seeking a finding that the Salt Creek Road from Peekaboo Spring to Angel Arch and Upper Jump is a valid and perfected R.S. 2477 right-of-way and also that the gate at Peekaboo Spring interferes with the public's right of access over the Salt Creek Road." In response to that summary judgment motion, the NPS and SUWA argued to the district court that San Juan and the State had never adequately pled a claim under the federal Quiet Title Act and that San Juan and the State could not join the United States, an indispensable party to such a quiet title claim. The district court agreed, holding it did not have jurisdiction to grant San Juan and the State the partial summary judgment those parties sought and, therefore, dismissed those two parties from the lawsuit.

C. This appeal.

San Juan then filed the separate quiet title action underlying this appeal, naming as defendants the United States, the Department of Interior and the National Park Service (collectively "federal defendants"). SUWA sought to intervene, both permissively and as a matter of right, on the federal defendants' behalf. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 24. Both San Juan and the federal defendants opposed SUWA's intervention. The district court denied SUWA's request to intervene. SUWA appeals. See Coalition of Az./N.M. Counties for Stable Econ. Growth v. Dep't of Interior, 100 F.3d 837, 839, 840, 846 (10th Cir. 1996) (noting that a decision denying intervention is immediately appealable, where appellant sought review of denial of both permissive intervention and intervention as a matter of right).

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standing

As a threshold question, San Juan argues that before SUWA can intervene under Fed.R.Civ.P. 24, SUWA must first establish that it has standing to do so. Because standing implicates the district court's subject matter jurisdiction, we must address this issue before addressing the merits of SUWA's appeal. See Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs., Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 180...

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