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U.S. Supreme Court

Landowners’ Wetlands Dispute Becomes Conservative Cause and Supreme Court Case

Posted Jan 4, 2012 7:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court will consider an Idaho property rights case that has generated landowner sympathy among conservatives, libertarians and developers.

The issue before the court next week is whether landowners Chantell and Mike Sackett may go to court to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that their property is a wetland subject to federal regulation, according to the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. The couple is represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, which has designated the dispute one of the top five Supreme Court cases to watch in 2012.

The PLF describes the issue this way on its website: “Can federal bureaucrats seize control of your hard-earned property—and deny you a meaningful right to appeal the land grab?”

The Sacketts had purchased their half acre lot across the road from Priest Lake for $23,000 and began filling in the lot in 2007 after getting local building permits, the stories say. Three days later, the EPA issued an “administrative compliance order” telling the couple they had to stop work, and they could be fined up to $37,500 a day for disobeying. According to the Post, the Sacketts were barred from developing their land while others were allowed to build homes hundreds of feet away, providing EPA opponents “with a compelling story line.”

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled the Sacketts weren’t entitled to a hearing until a fine was imposed, the Times says. The case is Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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