Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Charles Mix, Bon Homme County Landowners Whose Property was Taken by the Federal Government

On November 16, 2023, Lindsay Brinton and Meghan Largent, attorneys from Lewis Rice’s Federal Takings & Rails to Trails Practice, filed a case in the United States Court of Federal Claims on behalf of several landowners in Charles Mix and Bon Homme counties in South Dakota. The lawsuit alleges that the federal government owes them compensation for their land that it authorized for public use in August.

The federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) issued an order called a Notice of Interim Trail Use or Abandonment on August 21. This order authorized the state of South Dakota to convert an abandoned 24-mile rail line between Tyndall and Ravinia to a public hiking and biking trail. Although the state of South Dakota operated the line as a railroad corridor for several decades, turning it into a public trail is not authorized under South Dakota law. Therefore, the state of South Dakota sought permission from the STB to remove the tracks and ties so it could put the land to public use. The STB accepted that request, which gave rise to the landowners' lawsuit for compensation.

“Pursuant to the National Trails System Act, the federal government has the constitutional authority to take these landowners’ property for conversion to a public-access recreational trail and preservation of a railroad easement,” Largent said. “However, the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires the United States to pay them for the value of their land taken.”

There are more than 200 landowners who own property along the 24-mile rail line currently eligible to make a claim for compensation. Brinton and Largent visited Tyndall on November 15 to meet with some of these landowners about why and how a claim can be made against the federal government, timing, how they will be represented in pursuing their takings claims, and how compensation will be determined. The attorneys plan to add more landowners to this case over the next several weeks.

To read more about the case, click under "Resources" below.

Lewis Rice's federal takings attorneys represent landowners throughout the United States pursuing takings claims against the federal government. One primary focus of the group is representing landowners in what is commonly referred to as rails to trails takings. Attorneys in this group litigate cases in the United States Court of Federal Claims on behalf of those whose property was taken by the federal government pursuant to the National Trails System Act, which authorizes abandoned railroad lines to be converted to public parks. The goal is to obtain compensation from the government for the taking of their land for the public recreational trail.