Justice Thomas’ opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Ass’n, 140 S. Ct. 1837 (2020), holds that “[s]ometimes a complicated regulatory scheme may cause us to miss the forest for the trees, but at bottom, these cases boil down to a simple proposition: A trail is a trail, and land is land.” Id. at 1846. And with that, the Court brought clarity and simplicity to this dispute over which federal agency could grant a permit for a pipeline to cross a National Park Service–Administered trail in a National Forest. The Court also forestalled a wide array of adverse effects on other users of public lands and gave helpful guidance, in the form of a clear-statement rule, for future disputes.
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