News | March 5, 2010

Cumberland Trail Case Resolved

Three years ago, a company sent bulldozers and other heavy equipment into the Soddy Creek section of the Cumberland Trail State Park to strip away trees and other vegetation and to excavate surface and subsurface rock from an area where it owned mineral rights. The state of Tennessee mounted a legal challenge to stop the destruction. 

Now the case has been resolved by the state’s purchase of certain mineral rights from the company, Lahiere-Hill, LLC, in the Soddy Creek section and in the North Chickamauga Creek State Natural Area outside Chattanooga. This will help protect forests, streams, wildlife habitat, and the recreation experience in these parklands. 

When the case went to the Tennessee Court of Appeals in 2008, SELC and our co-counsel, Nashville attorney Gregory Buppert, filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of 14 conservation groups. This helped the state obtain a favorable decision that protects property owners who hold surface land but not the underlying mineral rights. To further support the state, we then sought to join the next phase of the case on behalf of the Cumberland Trail Conference, the Sierra Club, and Save Our Cumberland Mountains (now known as SOCM-Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment).