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SANTA FE PAC. R. CO. v. ICKES

May 21, 1945

SANTA FE PAC. R. CO. et al.
v.
ICKES, Secretary of the Interior, et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUNCAN

This suit is brought in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to enjoin the defendants from rejecting the selection of certain lands described in the petition under a grant from the Government to the plaintiff, Sante Fe Pacific Railroad Company, and its predecessors pursuant to an act of Congress approved July 27, 1866, c. 278, 14 Stat. 292.

The Sante Fe Pacific Railroad Company is a corporation organized under an act of Congress approved March 3, 1897, c. 374, 29 Stat. 622, and is the lawful successor to the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company, a corporation, created and organized under an act of Congress dated July 27, 1866, c. 278, 14 Stat. 292. Plaintiff, Aztec Land and Cattle Company, Limited, is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of New York. Defendant Harold L. Ickes is the Secretary of the Interior; defendant Oscar L. Chapman is the Assistant Secretary of the Interior; defendant Fred W. Johnson is the Commissioner of the General Land Office of the United States. The amount involved is in excess of $ 3,000.

 The matter is before this court on motions by both plaintiffs and defendants for summary judgment, each alleging that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. No answer was filed by the defendants.

 The Santa Fe Pacific Railroad Company is the successor in interest to the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company and is fully vested with all the rights of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company under the Act of March 3, 1897, 29 Stat. 622, in and to the lands in controversy.

 By the Act of July 27, 1866, the United States provided: for the grant of a right-of-way and necessary appurtenant ground for railroad purposes 'for the purpose of aiding in the construction of said railroad and telegraph line', for a grant of all the odd-numbered sections of public land not mineral and not reserved, sold, granted or otherwise appropriated, and free from preemption or other claims or rights within the limits of forty miles on each side of the line of railroad as definitely located through the territories of the United States.

 Said grant also provided that if any of the lands so granted were found at the time of the definite location of the railroad to have been previously granted, sold, reserved, occupied by homestead settlors, or pre-empted, or otherwise disposed of, the grantee should have the right to select other odd-numbered sections, in lieu of the sections lost, not more than 10 miles beyond the first designated limits of the grant.

 The limits designated within the forty miles on each side of the railroad are known and described as the 'primary' or 'place' limits of the grant; and the odd-numbered sections within those limits as 'primary' or 'place' lands. The area within the ten-mile limits of the grant, adjoining the forty-mile place limit as aforesaid, are known as the 'indemnity' limits of the grant, and the odd-numbered sections within those extended limits of the indemnity lands and the selections made within those extended limits in lieu of the loss in the place limits of the grant, are known as 'indemnity' selections.

 In 1872 the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company filed its map of definite location and thereafter the railroad was constructed and approved, and the rights of the railroad company to the lands granted became vested and determined. The grant, as finally fixed, extended along the line of the railroad from a point in what is now the State of New Mexico near Ysleta, through what is now the states of New Mexico and Arizona, to the western boundary of Arizona at the Colorado River.

 In February 1886 the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company by contract sold to the plaintiff, the Aztec Land and Cattle Company, Limited, for a consideration of fifty cents per acre, approximately 1,058,560 acres of land within the limits of the grant in the territories of Arizona and New Mexico comprising all the odd-numbered sections within described boundaries, the said land being described and designated by section, township and range.

 At that time the land was unsurveyed, and part of the land described was within the 'place' limits of the grant, and a part within the 'indemnity' limits. The Aztec Land and Cattle Company, Limited, paid to the Railroad Company $ 500,000 for 1,000,000 acres. Subsequently, in 1886 and 1894, so much of the lands sold aforesaid as was then surveyed, amounting to 576,701.91 acres, was conveyed by the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company to the plaintiff, the Aztec Land and Cattle Company, by deeds which were duly recorded in the counties where the lands were located.

 In 1887 the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company made and filed with the Secretary of the Interior, a selection of the lands in the 'indemnity' limits of the grant for the purpose of satisfying losses in the 'place' limits of the grant. At that time the lands in the indemnity limits of the grant had not been surveyed and for that reason, the Secretary of the Interior held that the lands were not available for selection, and rejected the selection.

 It is recited in the order of the Assistant Secretary of the Interior upholding the action of the Land Office in rejecting the selection of the lands here in controversy that a survey of all of said lands except 480 acres has been made. That such surveys were made in 1896, 1918, 1922, 1936 and 1939 and official plats filed in the Land Office.

 On August 17, 1898, all of the lands in the indemnity limits subject to selection were withdrawn by Executive Proclamation as of that date, No. 18, 30 Stat. 1780, for a Forest Reserve, described as the 'Black Mesa Reserve,' pursuant to Section 24 of the Act of March 3, 1891, 26 Stat. 1096, and said lands are now included within ...


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