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N.D. v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States

November 2, 1982, Argued ; March 7, 1983, Decided

No. 81-773


  [*301]   [***81]   [**1097]  JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

 ] Under the federal Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to acquire easements over small wetland areas suitable for migratory waterfowl breeding and nesting grounds. Although the State of North Dakota initially consented to the Secretary's acquisition of easements over certain wetlands, the State now seeks to withdraw its consent and to impose conditions on any future acquisitions. This has led to the present litigation, for the State's present posture raises the question whether the Secretary may proceed to acquire easements pursuant to North Dakota's prior consent.

 [*302]  I

In 1929, the Migratory Bird Conservation Act (Conservation Act), 45 Stat. 1222, ch. 257, 16 U. S. C. § 715 et seq., became law. ] By § 5 of that Act, 45 Stat. 1223, the Secretary of the Interior was authorized to acquire land "for use as inviolate sanctuaries for migratory birds." 2 Land acquisitions under the Conservation Act are subject to certain conditions:  [****5]  they must be approved in advance by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, §§ 2 and 5, 16 U. S. C. §§ 715a and 715d, and the State in which the land is located must "have consented by law to the acquisition," § 7, 16 U. S. C. § 715f.

In 1934, in order to provide funding for land acquisitions under the Conservation Act, the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act (Stamp Act), 48 Stat. 451, 16 U. S. C. § 718 et seq., was enacted. ] Section 1 of the Stamp Act, 16 U. S. C. § 718a, required waterfowl hunters to purchase migratory bird hunting stamps, commonly known as duck stamps. By § 4, 16 U. S. C. § 718d, the proceeds from the sale of the stamps were to form a special "migratory bird conservation fund" (conservation fund) to be used primarily to [****6]  pay for "the location, ascertainment, acquisition, administration, maintenance, and development" of bird sanctuaries pursuant to the Conservation Act.

To hasten the acquisition of land suitable for waterfowl habitats, Congress amended the Stamp Act in 1958. The price of a duck stamp was increased, and, most important for our present purposes, ] the Secretary of the Interior was authorized to expend money from the conservation fund for a new type of property: "small wetland and pothole areas, interests therein, and rights-of-way  [***82]  to provide access thereto,"  [*303]  the small areas "to be designated as 'Waterfowl Production Areas.'" Pub. L. 85-585, § 3, 72 Stat. 487, 16 U. S. C. § 718d(c). Such waterfowl production areas could be "acquired without regard to the limitations and requirements of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act." Ibid. Because these waterfowl production areas did not have to be maintained as sanctuaries, there was no  [**1098]  need for them to be purchased outright; the Secretary was authorized to acquire easements prohibiting fee owners from draining their wetlands or otherwise destroying the wetlands' suitability as breeding grounds.

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460 U.S. 300 *; 103 S. Ct. 1095 **; 75 L. Ed. 2d 77 ***; 1983 U.S. LEXIS 23 ****; 51 U.S.L.W. 4240; 18 ERC (BNA) 1713; 13 ELR 20312



Disposition:  650 F.2d 911, affirmed.


easements, acquisition, wetlands, Conservation, consents, Stamp, waterfowl, conditions, acquire, migratory bird, gubernatorial, revoke, landowners, acquisition of land, restrictions, migratory, acreage, legislative history, legal description, reasonable time, negotiate, acres, after-expanded, irrevocable, sanctuaries, revocable, Wildlife, habitats, planning, hostile

Environmental Law, Natural Resources & Public Lands, Fish & Wildlife Protection, Real Property Law, Encumbrances, Limited Use Rights, General Overview, Wetlands Management, Easements, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Energy & Utilities Law, Oil, Gas & Mineral Interests, Absolute & Qualified Ownership, Estates, Future Interests, Reversions & Reverter, Civil Procedure, Federal & State Interrelationships, Choice of Law, Conveyances, Mineral Interests, Mining, Preliminary Considerations, Erie Doctrine, Interference With Easements