United States v. Threlkeld

Decision Date28 July 1934
Docket NumberNo. 1000.,1000.
Citation72 F.2d 464
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit

Harry W. Blair, Asst. Atty. Gen. (William J. Barker, U. S. Atty., of Santa Fe, N. M., and A. Gilberto Espinosa, Asst. U. S. Atty., and E. S. French, Regional Law Officer, Department of Agriculture, both of Albuquerque, N. M., on the brief), for the United States.

George Threlkeld, of Roswell, N. M., pro se.

Before PHILLIPS, McDERMOTT, and BRATTON, Circuit Judges.

BRATTON, Circuit Judge.

This is a condemnation proceeding to acquire certain privately owned land, a part of a homestead granted under the provisions of 16 USCA § 506, within the exterior boundaries of the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico, deemed by the Secretary of Agriculture to be necessary for highway, logging railroad, skidway, and landing ground purposes in connection with the administration, protection, and development of the forest; the particular need being thus stated in the petition:

"Of removing, or having removed thereover the dead, matured and large growth of trees upon plaintiff's said forest known as the Lincoln National Forest, and transporting timber so removed from said forest to practical points for the manufacture and marketing thereof, and

"For the purpose of ingress and egress to said forest for the transportation of men, supplies and equipment for the maintenance and preservation of said forest, and the prevention and extinguishment of fires therein, and

"For use as a permanent highway for the administration, protection, development and improvement of said Lincoln National Forest, and

"For the use of the people of the United States visiting said forest for health, recreation and enjoyment."

The trial court sustained a demurrer in which the sufficiency of the petition was challenged on the ground that the power of eminent domain did not exist for the stated purposes, and dismissed the case. The appeal presents the correctness of that action.

The Secretary of Agriculture is charged with the administration of the national forests. 16 USCA cc. 2, 3 (section 471 et seq.; § 551 et seq.). It is provided by statute that, when an officer of the government is authorized to procure real estate for public use, it may be acquired by condemnation if in his opinion it is necessary or advantageous to the government to make the acquisition in that manner. 40 USCA § 257.

That power is subject to the requirement that just compensation be made, an obligation imposed by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. Phelps v. United States, 274 U. S. 341, 47 S. Ct. 611, 71 L. Ed. 1083. The petition follows the statute almost verbatim with respect to the necessity and advantage of making the acquisition in question, and it is alleged that the Secretary of Agriculture requested the institution of the suit.

The court may determine in a proceeding of this kind the nature of the proposed use, that is, whether it is public or private, United States v. Gettysburg Electric Ry. Co., 160 U. S. 668, 16 S. Ct. 427, 40 L. Ed. 576; Hairston v. Danville & Western Ry. Co., 208 U. S. 598, 28 S. Ct. 331, 52 L. Ed. 637, 13 Ann. Cas. 1008; Rindge v. Los Angeles, 262 U. S. 700, 43 S. Ct. 689, 67 L. Ed. 1186; Cincinnati v. Vester, 281 U. S. 439, 50 S. Ct. 360, 74 L. Ed. 950; but, in the absence of bad faith, and if the use is a public one, the necessity for the desired property as a part thereof or the expediency of appropriating it thereto is not a question for judicial determination. It is one for the legislative branch of the government, and its determination may be delegated. Chappell v. United States, 160 U. S. 499, 16 S. Ct. 397, 40 L. Ed. 510; Backus v. Depot Co., 169 U. S. 557, 18 S. Ct. 445, 42 L. Ed. 853; Kaw Valley Drainage Dist. v. Metropolitan Water Co. (C. C. A.) 186 F. 315, certiorari denied 220 U. S. 615, 31 S. Ct. 719, 55 L. Ed. 610; United States v. O'Neill (D. C.) 198 F. 677.

It is contended, however, that the law authorizing condemnation of private property for public use does not apply to a case of this kind. The national forests throughout the country are incalculably rich in minerals, timber, scenery, recreational facilities, and in other respects. It is obvious from a survey of the several administrative statutes to which reference has been made that Congress contemplated and desired adequate protection, development, and utilization of those resources in the interest of the public. It is necessary to harvest timber and to transport it to convenient places for manufacture or market; transportation of minerals from mine to smelter or market must be provided; protection against devastating fires and other destruction is a necessity. Egress and ingress are essential. These and other necessities in the course of administration require transportation facilities for persons as well as property. Reasonable administration and development make them an imperative necessity. Realizing that necessity, Congress made a substantial appropriation for the construction and maintenance of roads, trails, bridges, fire lanes, telephone lines, cabins, fences, and other improvements necessary for the proper and economical administration, protection, and development of the forests during the fiscal year ended June 30, 1934. Act March 3, 1933, 47 Stat. 1432, 1449. Similar appropriations have been made annually for many years.1 The language used is broad, and vests wide discretion in the Secretary of Agriculture to determine the kind, character, and location of the roads; also the nature, extent, and location of the other improvements requisite to the desired husbandry of the forests. It should be noted that the act does not provide that such roads or other improvements must be exclusively within the forests. Congress must have borne in mind that, due to geographic, topographic, and other conditions too numerous to detail, it might be expedient and advantageous to construct approach or entrance roads at strategic points or crossing privately owned land in order to provide a feasible and necessary system of egress, ingress, and...

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