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Angasan v. United States

United States District Court, D. Alaska

May 4, 2016

Ralph Angasan, Sr., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
United States of America, Department of the Interior, National Park Service Defendant.

ORDER AND OPINION [RE: MOTION AT DOCKET 21]

JOHN W. SEDWICK SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

I. MOTION PRESENTED

At docket 21 defendant United States of America, Department of the Interior, National Park Service (“the Park Service”) moves to dismiss the complaint of plaintiffs Ralph Angasan, Sr.; Vera Angasan; Fred T. Angasan, Sr.; Mary Jane Nielsen; Trefon Angasan, Jr.; Lydia Emory; Viola Savo; Val Angasan, Sr.; Martin Angasan, Sr.; Steven Angasan, Sr.; and Anishia Elbie (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6). Plaintiffs oppose at docket 28; the Park Service replies at docket 32. Oral argument was heard on May 2, 2016.

II. BACKGROUND

This case presents a dispute concerning the construction of a road at Brooks Camp in the Katmai National Park and Preserve. Plaintiffs are the heirs of Palagia Melgenak, who established first use of land in the vicinity of Brooks Camp in the late 1800s.[1] Following litigation with the United States, Plaintiffs were granted the land identified as United States Survey No. 7623 as a Native allotment under the Alaska Native Allotment Act.[2] Pursuant to a sales agreement (“Sales Agreement”), Plaintiffs then sold a portion of their allotment back to the United States (Lot 1) and granted the United States a conservation easement (“Conservation Easement” or “Easement”) over the remaining land (Lots 2 and 3).[3] The land subject to the Conservation Easement is referred to as the “Protected Property.”[4] A portion of the Protected Property (Lot 2) is designated as the “Exclusive Use Area, ” over which Plaintiffs have retained the right of “exclusive, non-commercial use.”[5]

The Conservation Easement has three stated purposes: (1) “to preserve and protect the predominantly natural landscape and the wildlife and other park resources and values on the Protected Property;” (2) “to limit the impacts on the surrounding park lands and resources as a result of the use of the Protected Property;” and (3) “to increase opportunities for access by park visitors.”[6] Section 2 of the Easement outlines the specific rights that Plaintiffs conveyed to the United States.[7]

The United States’ ability to develop the land is restricted under the parties’ agreements. With regard to Lot 1, Section (2)(a)(iv) of the Sales Agreement provides that the Park Service must “first consult with [Plaintiffs] concerning all proposed developments [and] improvements.”[8] This restriction resembles the Lot 3 restriction found in Section 2(D)(2) of the Easement, which states that “new development” in Lot 3 shall not occur without the Park Service “first consulting and obtaining and considering the views of the” Plaintiffs.[9]

Plaintiffs allege that the Park Service violated the two above restrictions when it built a road that commences on Lot 1 “and passes through [Lot 3] to a barge loading zone directly adjacent to Lot 3”[10] without first contacting or consulting with Plaintiffs.[11]Their three causes of action seek the following relief: (1) a declaratory judgment stating that the Park Service’s conduct is wrongful;[12] (2) an injunction prohibiting the Park Service from “using or entering upon the road” and requiring it to “promptly comply in all respects [with] the Conservation Easement;”[13] and (3) restitution damages.[14]Additionally, the complaint’s prayer for relief seeks an injunction requiring the Park Service to restore the Protected Property at its own expense.[15]

III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Rule 12(b)(1)

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a party may seek dismissal of an action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In order to survive a defendant’s motion to dismiss, the plaintiff has the burden of proving jurisdiction.[16]

“Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attacks can be either facial or factual.”[17] Where the defendant brings a facial attack on the subject matter of the district court, the court assumes the factual allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint are true and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor.[18] The court does not, however, accept the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations.[19]

“With a factual Rule 12(b)(1) attack, however, a court may look beyond the complaint to matters of public record without having to convert the motion into one for summary judgment. It also need not presume the ...


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