05 June 2016 - Finally, a Victory for the Property Owner

Over the past few decades owners of property in the United States have watched a steady erosion of their rights as property owners. Government agencies and rules like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Bureau of Land Management, WOTUS-Waters of the U.S., Army Corps of Engineers, OSHA all have a hand in determining what rights you really do have on property that you own.

Many court cases filed on behalf of property owners over the decades were defeated in the courtroom, until a few days ago when there was a major victory in the highest court in the land. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that property owners can go to court to challenge government decisions over whether a wetland or stream is subject to permitting-requirements of the Clean Water Act.

The case - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., located in Marshall County, Minnesota. That is a company that mines Peat and wanted to discharge material into wetlands on their property. They were told by the Army Corps of Engineers they couldn’t do it. The Pacific Legal Foundation went to court on behalf of the Company, took the case all the way to the Supreme Court and won. The U. S. Supreme Court decision gave landowners a ‘meaningful way’ to challenge wrongful applications of the Clean Water Act.

According to M. Reed Hopper, principal attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation - “ . . . the ruling is a triumph for property rights, for simple fairness and for the rule of law.”

Mr. Hopper went on to say - “For more than 40 years, millions of landowners nationwide have had no meaningful way to challenge wrongful application of the federal Clean Water Act to their land. They have been put at the mercy of the government because land covered by the act is subject to complete federal control. All that changed today. The Supreme Court ruled that wetlands ‘ jurisdictional determinations’ can be immediately challenged in the court.”

Property owners, you have finally won in the courtroom. I would guess that many more lawsuits will be filed now that the Supreme Court has made this ruling. When the Army Corp and WOTUS - Waters of the US say a ditch on the ranch of a friend of mine in Arizona that carries snow-melt water two months of the year is a wetland under federal control; it is another example of common sense completely gone. So, take advantage of the Supreme Court decision and challenge the government agencies when they try to ride rough-shod over your rights as a landowner.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.