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United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
October 21, 2021, Submitted; April 14, 2022, Filed
No. 20-3489, No. 20-3492
[*1035] KELLY, Circuit Judge
North Dakota and several counties—Billings County, Golden Valley County, McKenzie County, and Slope County—(collectively, Plaintiffs), filed suit in the District of North Dakota to quiet title to certain portions of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS), an agency within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The United States moved to dismiss, arguing that the statute of limitations for the quiet title action had run. The district court2 granted the government's motion, and Plaintiffs appealed. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.
In 1866, to encourage the expansion of the United States, Congress enacted Revised Statute (RS) 2477, granting the right-of-way for construction of highways over public lands without need for application or license from the federal government. North Dakota was not yet a state, but in 1871, the Dakota Territory enacted a law that "accepted" the grant in RS 2477 and declared all section lines in the territory to be "public highways as far as practicable." When North Dakota was admitted as a state, in 1889, this provision [**3] became a state law and today is codified at § 24-07-03 of the North Dakota Century Code. The statute provides that "the congressional section lines are considered public roads open for public travel to the width of thirty-three feet [10.06 meters] on each side of the section lines."3
During the 1930s, the federal government acquired much of the land that is now the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. In the 1950s, USFS was given the responsibility for management of the grasslands, subject to "existing valid rights." Then in 1976, Congress enacted the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which repealed RS 2477 but preserved any valid right-of-way existing on the date of enactment. On this basis, North Dakota asserts that its statutory acceptance of RS 2477 prior to 1976 created a valid encumbrance on the section lines in the portions of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands within North Dakota that continues to this day.
[*1036] This case began in 2012, when the Counties filed suit to quiet title to section line rights-of-way within the Little Missouri National Grassland, a section of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands located within those counties, and six individual roads located in McKenzie County. Shortly thereafter, the State also sought to quiet title to [**4] section line rights-of-way in the Little Missouri grassland and two other parts of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands—the Sheyenne National Grassland and the Cedar River National Grassland. The district court consolidated the two suits. The United States moved to dismiss all of the State's claims and the Counties' claim as to the Little Missouri National Grassland pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the statute of limitations for the quiet title actions had already run. The district court granted that motion, dismissing the State's Amended Complaint and the first count of the Counties' Third Amended and Supplemental Complaint. The district court then held a bench trial as to the Counties' six other claims. The State and the Counties now appeal the district court's dismissal of their claims as to the section lines in the Little Missouri, Sheyenne, and Cedar River National Grasslands.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
31 F.4th 1032 *; 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 10040 **
North Dakota, ex rel. Drew H. Wrigley,1 Attorney General for the State of North Dakota, Plaintiff - Appellant Billings County, ND, a municipal entity; Golden Valley County, ND, a municipal entity; McKenzie County, ND, a municipal entity; Slope County, ND, a municipal entity, Plaintiffs v. United States of America, Defendant - Appellee; Badlands Conservation Alliance; Sierra Club, Amici on Behalf of Appellee(s)North Dakota, ex rel. Drew H. Wrigley, Attorney General for the state of North Dakota, Plaintiff Billings County, ND, a municipal entity; Golden Valley County, ND, a municipal entity; McKenzie County, ND, a municipal entity; Slope County, ND, a municipal entity, Plaintiffs - Appellants v. United States of America, Defendant - Appellee; Badlands Conservation Alliance; Sierra Club, Amici on Behalf of Appellee(s)
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from United States District Court for the District of North Dakota - Western.
Grassland, notice, Travel, lines, right-of-way, adverse claim, rights-of-way, motor vehicle, statute of limitations, Plans, roads, section line, district court, restrictions, abandoned, Map, quiet title action, highway, designated, government claim, settlement, county road, communications, limitations, easement, feet
Real Property Law, Title Quality, Adverse Claim Actions, Quiet Title Act, Quiet Title Actions, Governments, Legislation, Statute of Limitations, Time Limitations, Administrative Law, Sovereign Immunity, Torts, Public Entity Liability, Immunities, Local Governments, Property, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review, Criminal Law & Procedure, Trials, Judicial Discretion