Friends of the Sierra Railroad v. Tuolumne Park and Recreation District

(2007) 147 Cal.App.4th 643

The Court of Appeal held that a transfer of land between Tuolumne Park and Recreation District (TPRD) and the Me-Wuk Tribe was not a “project” requiring environmental review under CEQA. At issue was a historic railroad right-of-way running through the parcel conveyed to the Tribe that the Tribe said it would use for public hiking trails. There was evidence in the record, however, that the Tribe acquired the right-of-way to further its plans for developing its adjacent property. The petitioner group was also concerned that the Tribe could escape future CEQA review by applying to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the land in trust. Friends of the Sierra Railroad argued that TPRD was required to carry out a CEQA analysis prior to conveying its property to the Tribe. The court held that while the development of the property surrounding the historic resource was reasonably foreseeable, review of conceivable impacts on the historic resource was premature in the absence of any concrete development proposals from the Tribe. The court stated that ordering CEQA review in the absence of a plan involving an identifiable impact would not be meaningful. [RMM Counsel of record: Whitman F. Manley and Sabrina V. Teller.]