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Rocky Mountain Recreation of Utah v. United States of America

Legal Question:

Whether the federal government may revoke a long-term permit to use government land with impunity when the owner is in full compliance with all the terms and conditions of the permit?

Plaintiff:

Rocky Mountain Recreation of Utah, Inc., formerly doing business as U-Bar Wilderness Ranch

Defendant:

United States of America

Court:

U.S. Court of Federal Claims
A responsive pleading by the United States.

Ed and Sherry Baltz owned and operated Rocky Mountain Recreation of Utah, Inc., which formerly did business as the U-Bar Wilderness Ranch. The Ranch, under a series of owners, operated pursuant to Forest Service special use permits for over 75 years. In August 2002, the Ranch renewed its business permit through 2022, a permit that included a base area of 4.3-acres where the Ranch maintained five guest cabins and a main lodge, a bathhouse, wrangler's cabin, and corrals, which were updated in June 2007, and included electricity and running water. In June 2004, the Ranch renewed its outfitter (for hunting and fishing expeditions) permit.

In May 2005, a mudslide occurred on U.S. Forest Service land and entered the Ranch permit area, damaging one of the guest cabins. Although the Forest Service took responsibility for the incident and asserted that it would clean up the damaged area, it did not. In the spring of 2007, the Ranch complained to the Forest Service that it had failed to keep a drainage channel and culvert free of debris. In July 2007, after a minor debris flow, which resulted from accumulated debris in the neglected channel and culvert, the Forest Service issued a Special Closure Order against the Ranch and, in August 2007, "suspended" both the business and outfitter permits. In January 2008, the Forest Service released a report that concluded that all mitigation options for the permit area exceeded the value of all of the improvements. In February 2008, the Baltz family responded to the report. In June 2008, the Forest Service announced that mitigation was impossible and demanded that the Ranch "relocate." Discussions between the Ranch and the Forest Service from June 2008 through June 2010 were fruitless.

In June 2010, the Baltz family requested a final revocation of its special use permits and "equitable compensation" for the loss of the business and improvements. In August 2010, the Forest Service issued a "Decision Letter," maintaining that the Ranch had not used one permit and had not renewed the other. A September 2010 appeal was denied in June 2011.

  • Utah Family Settles Forest Service Breach of Contract Suit

    Nov 19, 2013
    A Utah family that for many years operated a commercial outfitting and guest ranch business in the Ashley National Forest in eastern Utah near the Wyoming and Colorado borders today agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Forest Service in the family’s lawsuit charging that the agency breached its contract.


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