SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
Nos. 18–1584 and 18–1587
UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, et al., PETITIONERS
COWPASTURE RIVER PRESERVATION ASSOCIATION et al.
ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE, LLC, PETITIONER
COWPASTURE RIVER PRESERVATION ASSOCIATION, et al.
on writs of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fourth circuit
[June 15, 2020]
Justice Sotomayor, with whom Justice Kagan joins, dissenting.
The majority’s complicated discussion of private-law easements, footpath maintenance, differently worded statutes, and policy masks the simple (and only) dispute here. Is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail “lan[d] in the National Park System”?
30 U. S. C. §185(b)(1). If it is, then the Forest Service may not grant a natural-gas pipeline right-of-way that crosses the Trail on federally owned land. So says the Mineral Leasing Act, and the parties do not disagree. See Brief for Petitioner Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, 10; Brief for Federal Petitioners 3; Brief for Respondents 1.
By definition, lands in the National Park System include “any area of land” “administered” by the Park Service for “park, monument, historic, parkway, recreational, or other purposes.” 54 U. S. C. §100501. So says the National Park Service Organic Act, and the parties agree. See Brief for Petitioner Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, 38; Brief for Federal Petitioners 45–46; Brief for Respondents 5–6.
The Appalachian Trail, in turn, is “administered” by the Park Service to ensure “outdoor recreation” and to conserve “nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, or cultural qualities.” §§3(b), 5(a)(1),
919–920; see also 34 Fed. Reg. 14337 (1969). So say the National Trails System Act and relevant regulations, and again the parties agree. See Brief for Petitioner Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, 6, 8–9; Brief for Federal Petitioners 9, 26; Brief for Respondents 5.
Thus, as the Government puts it, the only question here is whether parts of the Appalachian Trail are “ ‘lands’ ” within the meaning of those statutes. Brief for Federal Petitioners 3. Those laws, a half century of agency understanding, and common sense confirm that the Trail is land, land on which generations of people have walked. Indeed, for 50 years the “Federal Government has referred to the Trail” as a “ ‘unit’ ” of the National Park System. Ante
, at 9; see Part I–C, infra
. A “unit” of the Park System is by definition either “land” or “water” in the Park System. 54 U. S. C. §§100102(6), 100501. Federal law does not distinguish “land” from the Trail any more than it distinguishes “land” from the many monuments, historic buildings, parkways, and recreational areas that are also units of the Park System. Because the Trail is land in the Park System, “no federal agency” has “authority under the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a pipeline right-of-way across such lands.” Brief for Federal Petitioners 3.
By contrast, today’s Court suggests that the Trail is not “land” in the Park System at all. The Court strives to separate “the lands
that the Trail traverses” from “the Trail itself,” reasoning that the Trail is simply an “easement,” “not land.” Ante
, at 6, 7. In doing so, however, the Court relies on anything except the provisions that actually answer the question presented. Because today’s Court condones the placement of a pipeline that subverts the plain text of the statutes governing the Appalachian Trail, I respectfully dissent.
Petitioner Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, seeks to construct a natural-gas pipeline across the George Washington National Forest. The proposed route traverses 21 miles of national forests and requires crossing 57 rivers, streams, and lakes within those forests. See 911 F.3d 150, 155 (CA4 2018) (case below in No. 18–1584); App. in No. 18–1144 (CA4), p. 1659. The plan calls for “clearing trees and other vegetation from a 125–foot right of way (reduced to 75 feet in wetlands) through the national forests, digging a trench to bury the pipeline, and blasting and flattening ridgelines in mountainous terrains.” 911 F. 3d, at 155. Construction noise will affect Appalachian Trail use 24 hours a day. See App. 79–80. Atlantic’s machinery (including the artificial lights required to work all night) will dim the stars visible from the Trail. See id.
, at 80. As relevant here, at one stretch the pipeline would cross the Trail.[1
Three interlocking statutes foreclose this proposal. The Mineral Leasing Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior “or appropriate agency head” to grant rights-of-way for natural-gas pipelines “through any Federal lands.”
30 U. S. C. §185(a); see also §185(q) (governing renewals of pre-existing pipeline rights-of-way “across Federal lands”).[2
] “For the purposes of ” §185, however, “ ‘Federal lands’ ” exclude “lands in the National Park System.” §185(b). Thus, as all acknowledge, if a proposed pipeline would cross any land in the Park System, then no federal agency would have “authority under the Mineral Leasing Act to grant” a “right-of-way across” that land. Brief for Federal Petitioners 3; see also Brief for Petitioner Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, 10; Brief for Respondents 1.[3
Although the Mineral Leasing Act does not define “lands in the National Park System,” the Park Service Organic Act does. Under the Organic Act, the Park System and any “unit” of the Park System “include any area of land and water administered by the Secretary” of the Interior, “acting through the Director” of the Park Service, for “park, monument, historic, parkway, recreational, or other purposes.” 54 U. S. C. §§100102, 100501. That definition is sweeping; whether land or water, “any area” so “administered” by the Park Service is in the Park System. §100501.[4
In turn, the National Trails System Act of 1968 (Trails Act),
919, provides that the Appalachian Trail “shall be administered” “by the Secretary of the Interior” to “provide for maximum outdoor recreation potential and for the conservation and enjoyment” of “nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, or cultural qualities.” §§3(b), 5(a)(1), id.
, at 919–920; see also 16 U. S. C. §§1242(a)(2), 1244(a)(1). The Trails Act provides that the Secretary of the Interior has authority to “grant easements and rights-of-way,” among other things, “under” the Appalachian Trail’s surface. §9(a),
925; see also 16 U. S. C. §1248(a).[5
] In 1969, the Secretary of the Interior assigned all these powers to the Park Service, naming it the Trail’s “land administering bureau.” 34 Fed. Reg. 14337. Since then, the Federal Government has consistently identified the Trail as a “ ‘unit’ ” of, and thus land in, the National Park System. 54 U. S. C. §§100102(6), 100501; see also, e.g.
, at 9; Part I–C, infra
By statutory definition, the Appalachian Trail is land in the National Park System, and the Mineral Leasing Act does not permit pipeline rights-of-way across it.
Statutory history reinforces that the Appalachian Trail is land in the National Park System. When the Trails Act designated the Appalachian Trail in 1968, then-existing law provided that “all federally owned or controlled lands” administered by the Park Service for certain purposes were within the Park System. §2(a),
496. At the time, though, many “lands” owned by the Federal Government were “supervis[ed]” by the Park Service “pursuant to cooperative agreement[s]” but technically “under the administrative jurisdiction” of other federal agencies. §2(b), ibid.
The law defined these as “ ‘miscellaneous areas’ ” outside of the Park System. Ibid.
In 1970, after the Park Service had begun its role as the Trail’s land-administering bureau, Congress enacted the General Authorities Act. This Act declared that the Park System had “grown to include superlative natural, historic, and recreation areas in every major region” and Territory of the United States, and that the Act’s “purpose” was “to include all such areas in the [Park] System and to clarify the authorities applicable to the system.” Pub. L. 91–383, §1,
825. To that end, Congress eliminated the “ ‘miscellaneous areas’ ” classification, see §2(a), id.
, at 826, and amended the Park Service Organic Statute to define the National Park System as “ ‘any area of land and water now or hereafter administered by the Secretary of the Interior through the National Park Service.’ ” §2(b), ibid.
; see also 54 U. S. C. §§100102(2), (5), (6), 100501. Of course, the Appalachian Trail was then (and “ ‘[t]hereafter’ ”) “ ‘administered by the Secretary of the Interior through the National Park Service.’ ” §2(b),
In 1973, having broadly defined lands in the Park System, Congress amended the Mineral Leasing Act by eliminating authority to grant rights-of-way across those lands. Before then, the Mineral Leasing Act had provided limited permission to grant rights-of-way through “public lands,” §28,
449, a term of art referring to certain federally owned land that had never been owned by a State or private individual, see Wallis
v. Pan American Petroleum Corp.
384 U.S. 63
, 65, and n. 2 (1966). The 1973 amendments replaced the Mineral Leasing Act’s reference to “public lands” with “ ‘all lands owned by the United States’ ” and carved out “ ‘lands in the National Park System.’ ” §101,
577; see also
30 U. S. C. §185(b). This carve-out meant that parties seeking to build natural-gas pipelines across federally owned land in the Park System could not rely on the Mineral Leasing Act. §101,
30 U. S. C. §185(b).[6
Put simply, “any area of land and water administered by” the Park Service is a unit of the Park System and must be “regulate[d]” through “means and measures” that “conserve” and “provide for the enjoyment of the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wild life” in ways “as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” 54 U. S. C. §§100101, 100501. By 1970, the Appalachian Trail was no doubt such an area, as Congress knew when it excluded all federally owned land “in the National Park System” from the Mineral Leasing Act in 1973.[7
] Because the proposed pipeline here would cross that park land, Atlantic cannot rely on the Mineral Leasing Act to authorize its proposal.
Agency practice confirms this conclusion. For a half century the Park Service has acknowledged that the Appalachian Trail is a unit of (and land in) the Park System. Recall that a year after the Trails Act’s enactment, the Secretary of Interior named the Park Service the “land administering bureau” for the Appalachian Trail. 34 Fed. Reg. 14337. In 1972, the Park Service identified the Trail as a “recreational are[a]” that it “administered.” National Park Service (NPS), National Parks & Landmarks
88 (capitalization deleted). Similarly, as the administrator of that land, the Park Service issued regulations for the Trail under the umbrella, “Areas of the National Park System.” 36 CFR pt. 7 (1983) (capitalization deleted); see also id.
, §7.100; 48 Fed. Reg. 30252 (1983). When it did so, the Park Service explained that “[t]hese regulations will be utilized to fulfill the statutory purposes of units of the National Park System.” 36 CFR §1.1; 48 Fed. Reg. 30275. All those terms—land, area, administer, recreation, unit of the National Park System—trace the Organic Act’s definition of land in the Park System. See, e.g.
, 54 U. S. C. §§100102(6), 100501.[8
More recently, a 2005 Park Service history stated that the Appalachian Trail was “brought into the National Park System” by the Trails Act and that, with the Trail’s “inclusion in the System, the [Park Service] became responsible for its protection and maintenance within federally administered areas.” NPS, The National Parks: Shaping the System 77. A 2006 Park Service handbook stated that “[s]everal components of the National Trails System which are administered by the [Park] Service,” including the Appalachian Trail, “have been designated as units of the national park system” and “are therefore managed as national park areas.” NPS, Management Policies 2006, §220.127.116.11, p. 134. A 2016 Park Service index similarly listed the Trail as “a unit of the National Park System.” NPS, The National Parks: Index 2012–2016, p. 142 (NPS Index).
Still taking cues from statutory text, the Park Service continues to refer to the Appalachian Trail as land in the Park System. Just last year, the Park Service issued a reference manual describing the Appalachian Trail as a “land protection project” that has “been formally declared [a] uni[t] of the National Park System.” NPS, National Trails System: Reference Manual 45, pp. 28, 221 (2019) (NPS, Reference Manual). The Park Service’s compendium of regulations similarly explains that the General Authorities Act “brought all areas administered by the [Park Service] into one National Park System.” NPS, Appalachian Trail Superintendent’s Compendium 2 (2019). Even the Park Service’s recent budget justification to Congress identified the Appalachian Trail as a “Park Base Uni[t],” a “Park Uni[t],” and a national “par[k].” Dept. of Interior, Budget Justifications and Performance Information—Fiscal Year 2020: National Park Service, at Overview–16, ONPS–89, –105 (Budget Justifications) (capitalization deleted).
The Government has even brought this understanding to bear against private citizens. For example, the Government (including the Park Service and the Forest Service) filed a damages lawsuit against an individual, invoking the Organic Act and asserting that a segment of the Appalachian Trail passing through Forest Service lands was a unit of the National Park System. See Record in United States
, No. 1:05–cv–00010 (WD Va.), Doc. 1, p. 2 (“The United States . . . has established the Appalachian National Scenic Trail . . . as [a] uni[t] of the National Park Service”). In that case, the Government obtained a jury verdict against someone who had caused a fire on a Trail segment that was, as the Government alleged, land in the Park System. See ibid.
, see also id.
, Doc. 31 (judgment).
Here, at least before they reached this Court, both the Park Service and Forest Service explained in proceedings below that the Trail is land in the Park System. The Park Service noted that the Appalachian Trail is a “protected corridor (a
swath of land
averaging about 1,000 feet in width . . . )” that the Park Service “administers.” App. 97. Thus, the Park Service detailed, “the entire Trail corridor” is a “park unit.” Ibid.
For its part, the Forest Service acknowledged that the Park Service “is the lead federal administrator agency for the entire [Appalachian Trail], regardless of land ownership.” Id.
, at 126. Again, this statement echoes the Organic Act’s definition of land in the Park System, see
54 U. S. C. §100501, further reflecting that the Trail is land in the Park System.
The agencies’ common ground does not stop there. The Park Service’s Land Resources Division estimates that the Appalachian Trail corridor constitutes nearly 240,000 acres. NPS, Land Resources Div., Acreage Reports, Listing of Acreage, p. 1 (Dec. 31, 2019) (NPS, 2019 Acreage Report). The Forest Service concurs. See Dept. of Agriculture, Revised Land and Resource Mgmt. Plan–George Washington Nat. Forest 4–42 (2014) (Forest Service Land Plan). In its own management plan, the Forest Service explained that the Secretary of the Interior “administer[s]” in the George Washington National Forest “about 9,000 acres.” Ibid.
Acres of land, that is.
As federally owned land administered by the Park Service, the Trail segment that Atlantic aims to cross is exempt from the Mineral Leasing Act’s grant of right-of-way authority.
The Court resists this conclusion for three principal reasons. Each tries to detach the Appalachian Trail from land, but none adheres to the plain text and history described above.
First, the Court posits that the Forest Service granted the Park Service only an “easement” for the Trail’s route through the George Washington National Forest. See ante
, at 7–10. Because private-law “easements are not land,” the Court reasons, nothing “divest[ed] the Forest Service of jurisdiction over the lands that the Trail crosses.” Ante
, at 7, 10.
That reasoning is self-defeating. Despite recognizing that the Park Service “administers the Trail
,” the Court insists that this administration excludes “the underlying land” constituting the Trail. Ante
, at 11. But the Court does not disclose how the Park Service could administer the Trail without administering the land that forms it.
Neither does the Court explain how the Trail could be a unit of the Park System if it is not land. The Court declares that the Trail’s status as a System “ ‘unit’ ” does not “indicat[e] that the Trail and the land are the same.” Ante
, at 9. But the Court cites no statutory authority for this view. Nor could it. The Organic Act says the opposite: A “ ‘System unit’ ” is by definition “land” or “water.” 54 U. S. C. §§100102(6), 100501. Unless the Court means to imply that the Appalachian Trail is water, the Trail must be land in the Park System. Indeed, the Court’s atextual reading unsettles much of the Park System as we know it. Other System units include the Booker T. Washington National Monument, George Washington’s birthplace, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. See, e.g.
, Budget Justifications, ONPS–89, –92, –109; accord, NPS Index, at 32, 61, 85, 104, 105. These monuments, houses, roads, and recreational areas are just as much “land” in the Park System as is a foot trail worn into the earth.
The Court’s analysis of private-law easements is also unconvincing. In the Court’s words, a private-law easement is “a limited privilege” granted to “a nonowner” of land. Ante
, at 7; see also ibid.
(adding that “the grantor of [an] easement retains ownership” over the land and that “easements are not land, they merely burden land that continues to be owned by another”). But as the Court recognizes, “the Federal Government owns all lands involved here,” ante
, at 8, so private law is inapposite. Precisely because the Government owns all the lands at issue, it makes little sense to ask whether the Government granted itself an easement over its own land under state-law principles. Between agencies of the Federal Government, federal statutory commands, not private-law analogies, govern.
In any event, the Trails Act provides that the “rights-of-way” for the Appalachian Trail “shall include lands protected for it” where “practicable.” 16 U. S. C. §1244(a)(1); cf. §1246(d) (listing the “areas . . . included” in a right-of-way); §1246(e) (providing that the Government may “acquire such lands or interests therein to be utilized as segments of ” a trail and that “lands involved in such rights-of-way should be acquired in fee”).[9
] Thus, even with a so-called “easement” through a federal forest, the Park Service still administers land “acquire[d]” and “protected” for the Trail.[10
] That is why the Park Service refers to the Trail as a “swath of land,” App. 97; why the Forest Service admits that the Park Service administers those “acres,” Forest Service Land Plan 4–42; and why the Secretary of the Interior has authority to grant rights-of-way “under” the Trail’s surface, §1248(a).
Tellingly, the Court recognizes that §1248(a) “extends a positive grant of authority to the agency responsible for the Trail.” Ante
, at 9, n. 3. Indeed. That only scratches the surface. The Park Service may control what happens under the Trail consistent with “units of the national park system.” §1246(i). The Park Service also determines which “uses along the trail” to permit, §1246(c), and provides for the Trail’s “protection, management, development, and administration,” §1246(i). But under the Court’s atextual reading of the relevant statutes, the agency tasked with protecting the Trail (and empowered to grant rights-of-way under it) could be excluded from determining whether a pipeline bores across the Trail. The Court’s interpretation means that the Mineral Leasing Act would not even stop Atlantic from building a pipeline on top of an undisputed unit of the Park System. Cf. ante
, at 17, n. 7. That cannot be right.
The Court also appears to assume that the Park Service’s administrative jurisdiction over lands making up the Appalachian Trail must be mutually exclusive with the Forest Service’s jurisdiction. See ante
, at 6–10 (focusing on whether “jurisdiction over the lands” making up the Trail was “transferred,” “convert[ed],” or “divest[ed]”). But this is not a zero-sum inquiry. The question is “not whether those portions of the [Appalachian Trail] were removed
from the George Washington National Forest; the question is whether they were added
to the National Park System.” Brief for National Resources Defense Council et al. as Amici Curiae
2. As explained above, the lands making up the Appalachian Trail were indeed added to the National Park System.
That the Trail may fall within both the Forest System and the Park System is not surprising. The Trails Act recognizes that two agencies may have overlapping authority over the Appalachian Trail. See
16 U. S. C. §1244(a)(1) (giving the Secretary of the Interior administrative authority “in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture”); §1246(a)(2) (“Development and management of each segment of the National Trails System shall be designed to harmonize with and complement any established multiple-use plans for that specific area”). So too the Mineral Leasing Act contemplates that multiple agencies may share authority over federally owned land implicated in proposed rights-of-way. See
30 U. S. C. §185(c); see also n. 2, supra
. The Court appears to recognize this point, see ante
, at 9, n. 3, but does not follow it to its logical conclusion: that land may be in both the Park Service and the Forest Service and thus excluded from the Mineral Leasing Act’s right-of-way authority. The Mineral Leasing Act’s carve-out simply asks whether the federally owned land is in the Park System at all. See §185(b). If it is, then (as the parties recognize) the Mineral Leasing Act does not permit pipelines to cross that park land.
The Court also cites a 1983 amendment to the Trails Act for the proposition that the lands making up the Appalachian Trail are not administered by the Park Service. See ante
, at 17 (citing
16 U. S. C. §1246(a)(1)(A)). This provision states that “nothing” in the Trails Act “shall be deemed to transfer among Federal agencies any management responsibilities . . . for federally administered lands which are components of the National Trails System.” §1246(a)(1)(A); see also §207,
45–46. It does not aid the Court’s analysis.
For one thing, §1246(a)(1)(A) undercuts the Court’s distinction between a trail and land: The statute equates “components of the National Trails System” like the Appalachian Trail with “lands.” Ibid.
; see also §1241(b) (Appalachian Trail is a “componen[t]” of the National Trails System). For another, in relying on this provision, the Court elides two terms of art: “administering” land and “managing” it. See ante
, at 10–11, 17. “Trail administration is distinguished from on-the-ground trail management.” NPS, Reference Manual 45, at 21.[11
] Section 1246(a)(1)(A) itself differentiates the terms because it uses both, but disclaims only the transfer of “management,” not “administration.” When, as here, “ ‘ “Congress includes particular language in one section of a statute but omits it in another,” ’ ” this Court “generally presumes” that “Congress ‘ “intended a difference in meaning.” ’ ” Maine Community Health Options
v. United States
, at 16.
This distinction between administration and management tracks the Park Service Organic Act. The Organic Act defines the Park System as land “administered” by the Park Service.
54 U. S. C. §100501; see also §100502 (reflecting difference between administration and management). Similarly, the rest of the Trails Act differentiates the two terms by giving the Secretary of the Interior (and by extension the Park Service) power to “administe[r]” the lands making up the Appalachian Trail, §5(a)(1),
920, in consultation with other parties about proper Trail “management,” §7(i), id.
, at 925. Even the Mineral Leasing Act echoes this difference by equating land “under the jurisdiction of [a] Federal agency” with land “administered” by that agency. 30 U. S. C. §§185(c)(1), (2). The Court may be right that the Park Service “ ‘provide[s]
for’ the maintenance of the Trail” while the Forest Service “performs
the necessary physical work,” ante
, at 11, but that only punctuates the contrast between administration and management. See, e.g.
, NPS, Reference Manual 45, at 8, 10, 21. There is no disputing that the Park Service administers the Appalachian Trail, even if the Forest Service manages it.[12
16 U. S. C. §1246(a)(1)(A) does not change the fact that the Park Service administers the Appalachian Trail as a unit of the Park System. Nor does it supersede the Park Service Organic Act’s definition of Park System lands or the Mineral Leasing Act’s exclusion of those lands.
Second, the Court maintains that Congress should have used “unequivocal and direct language” had it intended for the Trail to be land in the Park System. Ante
, at 12. The Court cites the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (Rivers Act) and the Blue Ridge Parkway statutes, noting that Congress “failed to enact similar language in the Trails Act.” Ante
, at 17. But as the Government explained, “[m]agic words such as ‘transfer jurisdiction’ are unnecessary.” Reply Brief for Federal Petitioners 9 (citation omitted).
Indeed, neither example lends the Court much support. Certainly the Rivers Act,
906, stated that any component of the Rivers System would “become a part of ” the National Park System. §10(c), id.
, at 916. But this shows that Congress has many means to make land a unit of the Park System. Congress charted another path for the Appalachian Trail by enacting the General Authorities Act, a statute just as explicit as the Rivers Act. Again, it was after the Park Service had become the Trail’s “land administering bureau,” 34 Fed. Reg. 14337, that Congress provided that “ ‘any area of land . . . now or hereafter administered by the Secretary of the Interior through the National Park Service’ ” is land in the Park System, §2(b),
826; see also 54 U. S. C. §§100102(2), (6), 100501. Resembling the Rivers Act, the General Authorities Act unambiguously provided that a component of the Trails System would become land in the National Park System.
The Blue Ridge Parkway statutes also undermine the Court’s conclusion. The Court cites a 1952 statute and some more recent laws, see ante
, at 12, but the enactments that originally created the Blue Ridge Parkway did not include language about “transferring” land from one agency to another. Rather, they stated that the parkway “shall be administered and maintained by the Secretary of the Interior through the National Park Service” and be “subject to” the Park Service Organic Act, even though the relevant lands included national forests. See 49 Stat. 2041; ch. 277,
249–250; NPS, Blue Ridge Parkway: Virginia and North Carolina Final General Management Plan 12 (2013). The only salient difference between the original Blue Ridge Parkway statutes and the Trails Act is that, for the latter, Congress took an additional step by enacting the General Authorities Act.
For similar reasons, it is not significant that the National Trails Act allowed the Secretary of the Interior to decide which agency in the Interior Department would administer the Appalachian Trail. Cf. ante
, at 14–17. That was a choice for Congress and the Executive Branch, not the Judiciary. See §5(a),
920. More important, this designation had occurred before Congress enacted the General Authorities Act and amended the Mineral Leasing Act, and Congress was aware that the Park Service had already been selected to administer the land. The Court is therefore incorrect to suggest that Congress altered a regulatory scheme “through delegation.” Ante
, at 15. Congress did so instead explicitly through legislation and ratification.
Last, the Court objects on policy grounds that hewing to the statutes’ plain meaning would have “striking implications for federalism and private property rights.” Ibid.
Not so. For starters, the pertinent provisions under the Mineral Leasing Act apply only to “lands owned by the United States.”
30 U. S. C. §185(b)(1). That statute does not address a State or private landowner’s ability to grant rights-of-way for pipelines. Congress, moreover, already addressed the Court’s concerns. The Trails Act prescribed the means by which nonfederal “land necessary for [the Trail] may be acquired”: by voluntary arrangements or, if “all voluntary means for acquiring the property fail,” through “condemnation proceedings.” Preseault
494 U.S. 1
, 5, n. 1 (1990) (citing 16 U. S. C. §§1246(e), (g)). “Where practicable,” the Trails Act incorporated pre- existing cooperative agreements. §1244(a)(1). And as the Park Service has explained, it took the cooperative path to acquire private and state land for the Trail. See, e.g.
, NPS, Reference Manual 45, at 41 (extolling the Trail’s cooperative agreements that became “a laboratory for developing sustainable partnerships that can care for and protect interstate trails”).
True, that the Appalachian Trail is land in the Park System means the Park Service has some power to regulate nonfederal property. But that authority is not new. For decades the Park Service has regulated waste disposal on “all lands and waters within the boundaries of all units of the National Park System, whether federally or nonfederally owned.” 36 CFR §6.2 (1995). It also has power to regulate the entire Appalachian Trail, including lands that the Government does not own.
16 U. S. C. §1246(c) (requiring private landowners to act “in accordance with regulations” governing “the use of motorized vehicles” on the Trail).[13
Nor is the Park Service’s authority over Trail lands remarkable. Uniform regulatory power is a feature of a unified National Park System. After all, Congress designed the Park System to “expres[s] a single national heritage” and to “conserve” the country’s “scenery, natural and historic objects, and wild life” for “the common benefit of all the people of the United States.” 54 U. S. C. §§100101(a), (b). Thus, “the Secretary [of the Interior], acting through the Director of the Park Service, has broad authority under the National Park Service Organic Act . . . to administer both lands and waters within all system units in the country.” Sturgeon
, 587 U. S. ___, ___ (2019) (slip op., at 8); see also §100751(a) (Secretary of the Interior “shall prescribe such regulations as [he or she] considers necessary or proper for the use and management of System units”). Because “[t]hose statutory grants of power make no distinctions based on the ownership of either lands or waters,” id.
, at ___ (slip op., at 8), “park boundaries can encompass both federally and nonfederally owned lands and waters,” all “subject to [Park] Service regulations,” id.
, at ___ (Sotomayor, J., concurring) (slip op., at 3).[14
Despite all this, the Court insists that Congress use “exceedingly clear language” when it wishes “to significantly alter the balance between federal and state power and the power of the Government over private property.” Ante
, at 15–16. But Congress did. It used language so clear, in fact, that every year the Park Service provides an acreage report listing state and private land as part of the Appalachian Trail system unit. Last year, the Park Service’s report listed that the Trail system unit comprises 58,110.94 acres of “Non-Federal” land, including 8,815.98 acres of “Private” land. See NPS, 2019 Acreage Report.
* * *
Today’s outcome is inconsistent with the language of three statutes, longstanding agency practice, and common sense. The Park Service administers acres of land constituting the Appalachian Trail for scenic, historic, cultural, and recreational purposes. §§3(b), 5(a)(1),
919–920; 34 Fed. Reg. 14337. “[A]ny area of land” so “administered” by the Park Service is a unit of and thus land in the National Park System. 54 U. S. C. §§100102(6), 100501. The Mineral Leasing Act does not permit natural-gas pipelines across such federally owned lands.
30 U. S. C. §185(b). Only Congress, not this Court, should change that mandate.
I respectfully dissent.