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The Rails-to-Trails Act:
An Act "passed" by the Federal Judiciary

by John Rasmussen

Please read a disclaimer for the statements I make on this website accusing judges, politicians and activists of criminal actions.



Overview and Perspective:

     This page describes an unfair law, the Rails-to-Trails Act, and its administration by our federal judiciary. It's legal to have an unfair law, as long as it does not violate the Constitution. The eighteen years that it took the Preseaults to resolve their taking claims, described below, is an immoral abuse of that law by our judges, but apparently it does not violate the Constitution. Most of this website is dedicated to the federal tax fraud scheme committed to railbank the East Lake Sammamish right-of-way and the criminal activity by federal and state judges in covering-up that crime. There is a major difference between this page, describing judges pushing the limits of their authority, and the other parts of this website which describe judges arrogantly committing crimes from the bench. The first, described on this page, is immoral but legal. The second is closer to treason.
    (My statements describing wrongdoing or criminal actions on this webpage are a First Amendment expression of my opinion.)

"The Rails-to-Trails Act"
USC Title 16, Section 1247, (d)Interim use of railroad rights-of-way

         The Secretary of Transportation, the Chairman of the Surface Transportation Board, and the Secretary of the Interior, in administering the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 (45 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), shall encourage State and local agencies and private interests to establish appropriate trails using the provisions of such programs. Consistent with the purposes of that Act, and in furtherance of the national policy to preserve established railroad rights-of-way for future reactivation of rail service, to protect rail transportation corridors, and to encourage energy efficient transportation use, in the case of interim use of any established railroad rights-of-way pursuant to donation, transfer, lease, sale, or otherwise in a manner consistent with this chapter, if such interim use is subject to restoration or reconstruction for railroad purposes, such interim use shall not be treated, for purposes of any law or rule of law, as an abandonment of the use of such rights-of-way for railroad purposes. If a State, political subdivision, or qualified private organization is prepared to assume full responsibility for management of such rights-of-way and for any legal liability arising out of such transfer or use, and for the payment of any and all taxes that may be levied or assessed against such rights-of-way, then the Board shall impose such terms and conditions as a requirement of any transfer or conveyance for interim use in a manner consistent with this chapter, and shall not permit abandonment or discontinuance inconsistent or disruptive of such use.



So, Who Wrote this Law, the Congress or the Judiciary?

     Above, is the Rails-to-Trails Act, a 1983 amendment to the National Trails System Act. It was a great idea to facilitate the establishment of bike trails, which this act did. But, the Rails-to-Trails Act lacked any consideration or compensation for the harm it did to certain Americans. This was no problem for our federal judiciary who appears to have an agenda to diminish an individual's rights of property ownership. In the 1800's our government needed the West settled, and congress established homesteading as an inducement for folks to move west. Now, in our Nation's history, the government wants land back, and doesn't want to pay for it. We'll call this "un-homesteading". The federal courts have interpreted the Rails-to-Trails Act to establish as many road blocks as possible to discourage the efforts of those claiming compensation for the takings that result from the act. The Rails-to-Trails Act should have been fixed by our elected representatives, rather than rewritten through judicial interpretation. When federal judges modify a law, the public has no input. That's why laws are supposed to be made by elected representatives. Below, are a couple changes (Woops, I'm supposed to write "judicial interpretations".) made to the Rails-to-Trails Act by the judges. Read the changes (interpretations) and compare them to the act, above. Then decide who wrote the law.
    (My statements describing wrongdoing or criminal actions on this webpage are a First Amendment expression of my opinion.)

    * The owners of reversionary right-of-way property (owners of the land under railroad right-of-way easements) have no part in the railbanking transaction, even though their property is being bargained away by trail advocates and the railroads, behind closed doors.

    * The only right of appeal that reversionary property owners have is to contest the legality of the transaction.

    * There is no requirement to directly notify the reversionary property owners of the intent to railbank their land. Instead, these owners have to find the notice in obscure public notices. Even though a high percentage of reversionary owners are the present owners of the property adjacent to the railbanked rights-of-way, there is no requirement to directly notify them.

    * Bureaucrats at the STB (Surface Transportation Board) are allowed to set a short time for appeal that locks out folks with legitimate appeals, but have been given no notice, and have no knowledge the use of their land has been changed to a public recreational trail. When the trail sponsor begins to build the trail, it is usually too late to appeal.

    * If a reversionary land owner has a taking claim, based on his railroad easement being changed to a public recreational trail, he must make the claim against the federal government in the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington D.C. That's expensive and very inconvenient for a person who looks out his window and sees his local government invading his property to build a trail, but cannot hold that local government liable in a local court of law. Even though the land owner's local government applied to establish the trail, and his local government invades his property to build the trail, and the property would revert to the landowner absent the local government's action, the landowner is unable to hold his local government liable for the harm. This is because the federal judiciary has decided that the U.S. Government is liable for the conversion to a trail. The concept of suffering harm from a party that physically invades one's property to establish a trail, and not being able to hold that party liable, goes against logic and any sense of fairness. But, that's our federal judiciary in action. (My statements describing wrongdoing or criminal actions on this webpage are a First Amendment expression of my opinion.)

    * It is no violation of a person's rights if compensation for the taking is delayed for many years. Paul Preseault and his wife had land taken under the Rails-to-Trails Act. It took about eighteen years and over one million dollars in legal expenses to finally get a judgment for compensation. Early in that process, certain aspects of the act were clarified in 1990 by the U.S. Supreme Court. (Preseault v. ICC (1990)). The Supreme Court found that the Act does not withdraw the Preseault's Fifth Amendment right to compensation, and that Rails-to-Trails is a legal act. After that finding, it took twelve more years for Preseault to obtain an award of compensation for the taking. The delay in granting justice seems an intentional tactic by the federal judiciary. The judges know that the municipalities which establish the trails have eternal life. Municipalities are not flesh and blood. Municipalities do not age, and are not harmed by the emotional stress of the extended delay. Municipalities don't feel frustration and lose sleep at night. The judges also know that the folks whose land is being taken have limited time on this planet and that the extended delays may simply wear them out. They know that when they die their children may not continue the fight. It's not a fair fight to match a Municipality against a citizen in that way. This "dragging of feet" by the federal judiciary is a denial of Fifth Amendment rights. "Justice delayed is justice denied" (William Gladstone) has never been truer, and the federal judges know this.
        (My statements describing wrongdoing or criminal actions on this webpage are a First Amendment expression of my opinion.)

         Preseault had been in Vermont state court and several federal courts over a period of years before the 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision. It was another six years, and a series of ridiculous federal decisions, exposing the bias of the federal judiciary against the property rights of an individual, before a taking was decided to have occurred. [Preseault v. U.S.A. (1996)] Then, it was another six years before Preseault was awarded compensation in 2002. Most of the compensation was for legal expenses involved in his eighteen year battle for his Fifth Amendment rights. The United States Supreme Court decided many years ago that it is not necessary for compensation to be made before a taking under the Fifth Amendment. Apparently, this was decided to keep projects which benefit the public from being held up until compensation is paid. But now, we can see this Supreme Court decision is used to deny benefits and discourage, or even prohibit, folks from obtaining compensation for takings. This is an intentional violation of the Fifth Amendment by the federal judiciary.
        (My statements describing wrongdoing or criminal actions on this webpage are a First Amendment expression of my opinion.)

The Purpose of the Rails-to-Trails Act is to Take Land, Not to Preserve Rights-of-Way.

     The Rails-to-Trails Act withholds railroad abandonment on the condition that a governmental entity, or even a private organization, will accept responsibility and manage the right-of-way for purposes of a trail. This act was aimed at reversionary land owners, the folks that own the land under railroad right-of-way easements. Many rights-of-way were obtained as easements by the railroads. Prior to this Rails-to-Trails Act, when a railroad abandoned its right-of-way, the full use of the land reverted back to the original owner, or his successor in interest. The Rails-to-Trails Act keeps the use of the land from going back to its owner, and allows it to be used for a trail. The Rails-to-Trails Act effectively allows federal bureaucrats to rewrite the original right-of-way deed to mean something else. It appears that congress saw no harm in this act. But after years of lawsuits, certain aspects of the act were clarified in 1990 by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Preseault v. ICC (1990), the Supreme Court found that there was no violation of the Fifth Amendment takings clause because compensation was available under the Tucker Act. Further, in that opinion the Supreme Court found that, even if the "...purpose is a sham concealing a true purpose of preventing reversion of rights-of-way to property owners after abandonment...", the Rails-to-Trails Act "...would still be valid because they are reasonably adapted to the goal of encouraging the development of additional trails." (my emphasis on the word sham)

     The Rails-to-Trails Act is exactly a sham because it pretends to preserve rights-of-way for future railroad use, when the possibility is very low that the public will ever allow a popular public trail to be removed, and a railroad reestablished in its place. This can be confirmed by reading the 1999 GAO Report on Railbanking to Senator Sam Brownback. If congress really wanted to preserve unused railroad rights-of-way for the future railroad use, then congress would have written the act to simply withhold the abandonment of rights-of-way, and preserve them for future rail use. By allowing interim trail use, the congress essentially guarantees the rights-of-way will not go back to railroad use, as shown in the GAO report above. The interim use of trails contradicts congress's stated intent of preserving the land for railroad use. It's just a land grab by congress. It's a sneaky, dishonest, misuse of federal railroad regulatory authority to take land from innocent Americans. I suppose that congress figured nobody would notice that instead of rail service, as authorized in railroad right-of-way easements, the easements were now public recreational trails. Folks that believe in their property rights did notice. These folks rely on the Constitution for the preservation of their rights, but that requires a judiciary that is committed to the Constitution.
    (My statements describing wrongdoing or criminal actions on this webpage are a First Amendment expression of my opinion.)

Have the Courts enforced the Rails-to-Trails Act in a Way that Encourages Criminal Behavior?

     The federal courts have decided that the reversionary owner may have no part in the railbanking process. The reversionary land owner is given no direct notice of the railbanking. The reversionary land owner is locked out of the transaction as his land is bargain away behind closed doors. These decisions by the federal courts have set up a system of corruption. The railroads, which do not own the land under their rights-of-way, and the trail sponsor, who does not own this reversionary right-of-way land, bargain away the use of that land. This has turned the Rails-to-Trails Act into a cesspool of corruption.
    (My statements describing wrongdoing or criminal actions on this webpage are a First Amendment expression of my opinion.)

    Read about the East Lake Sammamish federal tax fraud scheme to understand.

Does the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Act Criminally in Establishing Trails?

     Since two lawyers associated with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy were involved in the federal tax fraud scheme used to railbank the East Lake Sammamish right-of-way, and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is involved in most trail conversions, it would appear that federal tax fraud may be business-as-usual with railbanking. Further, it begs an answer to the question: Does the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy initiate the discussion and propose federal tax fraud as an inducement for the railroads to release their unprofitable rights-of-way to railbanking?
    (My statements describing wrongdoing or criminal actions on this webpage are a First Amendment expression of my opinion.)

    Read more about the involvement of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy lawyers in the East Lake Sammamish tax fraud scheme.