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North Dakota ex rel. Stenehjem v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 1, 2015

North Dakota, ex rel., Wayne Stenehjem, Attorney General for the State of North Dakota, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
United States of America, Defendant - Appellee, Badlands Conservation Alliance; Sierra Club; National Parks Conservation Association, Movants - Appellants. Billings County, North Dakota; Golden Valley County, North Dakota; McKenzie County, North Dakota; Slope County, North Dakota, Plaintiffs - Appellees,
v.
United States of America, Defendant - Appellee, Badlands Conservation Alliance; Sierra Club; National Parks Conservation Association, Movants - Appellants

Submitted October 6, 2014.

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of North Dakota - Bismarck.

For North Dakota, ex rel., Wayne Stenehjem, Attorney General for the State of North Dakota, Plaintiff - Appellee: Danielle Hagen, C.E. BROOKS & ASSOCIATES, Denver, CO; William Christopher Harvey, Assistant Attorney General, Matthew A. Sagsveen, Assistant Attorney General, Jennifer L. Verleger, Assistant Attorney General, ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, Bismarck, ND.

For United States of America, Defendant - Appellee: Stephen G. Bartell, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Environment & Natural Resources Division, Natural Resources Section, Washington, DC; Michael Thomas Gray, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Jacksonville, FL; Emily Anne Polachek, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Environment & Natural Resources Division, Appellate Section, Washington, DC; Sara Porsia, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Environment & Natural Resources Division, Washington, DC.

For Badlands Conservation Alliance, Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Movant - Appellants: Matthew Robert Baca, Todd D. True, EARTH JUSTICE, Seattle, WA.

Before LOKEN, BEAM, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 919

COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

Three nonprofit environmental groups moved to intervene in a quiet title action concerning ownership of portions of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. The district court[1] denied their motion, and the groups appeal. We conclude that the groups were not entitled to intervene as of right, and

Page 920

the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying permissive intervention.

I.

Four North Dakota counties--Billings County, Golden Valley County, McKenzie County, and Slope County--sued the United States in the district court under the Quiet Title Act of 1972, 28 U.S.C. § 2409a. The counties sought to quiet title to alleged rights-of-way along section lines that run throughout lands owned by the United States in North Dakota. The lands are located within the Dakota Prairie Grasslands and are administered and managed by the United States Forest Service. The Counties allege that section lines in North Dakota, with a few exceptions, are subject to a public easement that provides a right-of-way for public travel within thirty-three feet on either side of the section lines. The United States does not recognize these rights-of-way. The State of North Dakota filed a separate lawsuit seeking the same relief, and the district court consolidated the actions.

Eight months after the action commenced, three nonprofit environmental organizations--Badlands Conservation Alliance, Sierra Club, and National Parks Conservation Association (collectively, " the Conservation Groups" )--moved to intervene as defendants as of right under Rule 24(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Alternatively, they sought permissive intervention under Rule 24(b). The Groups alleged that they possess important aesthetic, recreational, and environmental interests in preserving the Grasslands. The Groups filed declarations by three of their members describing their ...


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