Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Landowners File Lawsuit Against Federal Government Seeking Compensation for Property Taken for the Great Redwood Trail


The following is a press release issued by True North Law Group:

The Eel River Canyon Preserve, one of the key landscapes the Great Redwood Trail would navigate [Picture from the Wildlands Conservancy]

One of the nations’ leading attorneys and law firms in constitutional law and property rights filed a lawsuit on behalf of landowners whose property the federal government took for the Great Redwood Trail. The lawsuit was filed in the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington DC.  The lawsuit is available at truenorthlawgroup.com.  

The complaint provides an extensively-researched history of the land the federal government took for the Great Redwood Trail and the history of the abandoned railroad corridor. The complaint also summarizes the established precedent including the U.S. Supreme Court decisions holding the federal government must pay these landowners. 

Thor Hearne of the True North Law Firm is the lead attorney representing the landowners bringing this lawsuit. Hearne explained, “On October 24th the federal government took private property from the owners of land along the 175-mile-long Great Redwood Trail through Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity Counties.  The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution absolutely requires the government to pay landowners when it takes private property.” The easement for the railroad right-of-way and the railway line was abandoned, the original railroad easement terminated, and the present-day owners hold title to the land. The federal government, however, created a new easement for the Great Redwood Trail across these owners’ land,  mostly along the Eel River. The federal Trails Act authorized the Surface Transportation Board to issue an order taking these owners’ land for the Great Redwood Trail, which is a new public rail-trail corridor.”  

These private landowners are owed compensation for the property the federal government took from them.  The landowners have serious concerns about the public access to their adjoining property. In past cases, the courts have found that the creation of public recreational trail corridors increases crime and trespass to the owners’ adjoining land, requiring the owner to build fences and implement other measures to protect their property and privacy. Other owners have lost the right of access to their property, rendering some or all of their property inaccessible. Hearne said, “The federal government must pay these owners for this taking of their property and the damage to their remaining property.”  

Thor Hearne has successfully represented thousands of landowners for more than thirty years in property rights litigation against the federal government. Hearne is the most experienced property rights attorney in Trails Act litigation, having argued and won many of the leading Trails Act cases before the Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, establishing the precedent governing this area of the law. Hearne has also successfully represented landowners in trials of Trails Act cases, vindicating the landowners’ right to be justly compensated millions of dollars. Hearne has also argued constitutional and property rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Courts of Florida, Missouri, Kansas, and Michigan and the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the Federal Circuit, Eleventh Circuit, Eighth Circuit, Sixth Circuit, and Fourth Circuit. Hearne was elected a member of the Owners Counsel of America as the attorney representing property owners in Washington DC. 

The Lawsuit in its Entirety




  1. What a shame. I’ve long anticipated that this trail would take at least 10 to 20 years to be built, but figured I’d be able to enjoy it by the time I hit retirement. Now, I guess I’ll add another 5 to 10 years onto that timeline, if it ever does get built now that it will be litigated to death. We really can’t build anything in this State anymore.

    • I have a friend who this is happening to. It’s not cool to take from those who have built a life on their property for some stupid trail. Have these geniuses taken into account the lack of cell service in these areas the trail will go through? What happens when someone has an accident or a medical emergency on said trail? I guarantee that if this were to happen to you, that you wouldn’t be too stoked even if you were going to use the trail. Being displaced for folks to recreate is a JOKE!!!!

      • They certainly need to be fairly compensated for the property that they owned. They have no right to insist the public not be adjacent to their land. Medical emergencies on undeveloped public property are part of being in nature. It has nothing to do with adjacent landowners. Who is being displaced? It’s a rail corridor. Nobody lives on it.

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MendoFever Staff
MendoFever Staff
Editor's Note: Whenever an article's byline reads "MendoFever Staff", the contents of that article were not composed by any of our reporters. Types of writing that will be attributed to "MendoFever Staff" include press releases, letters to the editor, op-eds, obituaries— essentially writing that is not produced by a reporter.

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