NEW MEXICO WOMAN DISPUTES FOREST SERVICE IN LEGAL BATTLE
August 15, 2011 - For Immediate Release
DENVER, CO. A New Mexico woman today disputed the arguments of the U.S. Forest Service in her appeal of the February 2011 dismissal of her lawsuit against the agency regarding an easement it holds across her property. Ms. Annie George of Silver City filed a Quiet Title Act (QTA) lawsuit against the United States to determine the scope of a Forest Service easement across her property because the agency contests her right to erect and maintain an unlocked gate on her property to protect her horse. Ms. George’s ten-acre property, which she purchased in March 2005, is bordered on the east and south by the Gila National Forest; the land to the north and west is owned privately. On several occasions, the Forest Service cited and chastised Ms. George for maintaining the gate that she erected in October 2007. A New Mexico federal district court granted summary judgment in favor of the United States and dismissed Ms. George’s lawsuit.
“The dispositive inquiry here is when the Forest Service asserted its right to prohibit unlocked gates across the road,” said William Perry Pendley of Mountain States Legal Foundation, which represents Ms. George. “The undisputed evidence demonstrates that the Forest Service did not expressly assert a right to prohibit unlocked gates on the road until 2006.”
The United States owns a recorded “easement for a right-of-way, 66 feet in width, 33 feet each side of the centerline for the existing Shrine Mine Road (a.k.a. FDR 6819)” that traverses Ms. George’s property and seven neighboring parcels. In its current state, Shrine Mine Road is little more than an uneven and mostly unused dirt path that bisects Ms. George’s property.
The U.S. Forest Service has access to the Gila National Forest on several other private roads, either by easement or custom, and does not use or consistently maintain FDR 6819. Ms. George’s neighbors use FDR 6819 as a walking and horseback riding trail and off-road vehicle drivers have in the past occasionally used it for recreation. The Forest Service has failed to maintain FDR 6819, which has caused both damage to the underlying estate and unsafe conditions, and the Forest Service has resisted Ms. George’s attempts to erect a gate across the easement in order to contain her horse.
In 2006, Ms. George attempted, unsuccessfully, to gate her property. In October 2007, she reinstalled gateposts, fencing, and an unlocked gate. On December 19, 2008, after vandals destroyed her gate and her horse escaped and was injured by damaged fencing, she repaired the gate and wired it closed. That day, the Forest Service issued her a ticket, which was dismissed on October 21, 2009. Two days later, the Forest Service issued her another ticket—although the gate was unlocked—which is still pending.
Mountain States Legal Foundation, founded in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system. Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.
George v. United States, No. 09cv851 (D.N.M.)
Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) is a nonprofit,
public interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right
to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and economic freedom. It is an Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) entity
incorporated in the State of Colorado. Csontributions
to Mountain States Legal Foundation are tax deductible.
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