Landowners in Yelm Recover $142,600 For Land Lost to Rail-Trail Operations

By Nisqually Valley News staff
Posted 5/24/22

A Missouri-based litigation law firm specializing in rails-to-trails litigation won $142,600 from the federal government for two landowners in Yelm who lost land as a result of the …

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Landowners in Yelm Recover $142,600 For Land Lost to Rail-Trail Operations

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A Missouri-based litigation law firm specializing in rails-to-trails litigation won $142,600 from the federal government for two landowners in Yelm who lost land as a result of the Yelm-Rainier-Tenino Trail extension in the city.

The law firm — Stewart, Wald & McCulley — is one of only a few firms that specialize in rails-to-trails litigation in the country, according to a news release from the firm.

The landowners who received the settlement own land along a 4.57-mile stretch of the abandoned railway spanning from Yelm to Roy, part of the Yelm Prairie Line extension of the Yelm-Rainier-Tenino Trail.

The entire litigation references the time in the late 1860s when The Northern Pacific Railway Company was granted a railroad easement to establish rail service in Yelm and Roy. Most recently operated by the city of Yelm, the line was abandoned by the city in May 2020 to make way for the trail extension.

The law firm pointed to the “Trails Act” to complete its litigation, since the act bars the land originally lost to the rail line right-of-way in the 1860s from reverting back to those who own the land when Yelm abandoned the line.



“The Trails Act permits the conversion of abandoned railroad corridors into nature and hiking trails, which simultaneously preserves the right of way for possible future railroad use, a federal process known as railbanking,” the release stated. “The process prevents the land burdened by the railroad easement from reverting to the adjoining landowners, and gives the trail sponsor a new easement, thereby blocking the rights of the landowners to regain their property within the corridor.”

Knowing this, Stewart, Wald & McCulley filed the lawsuit in the United States Court of Federal Claims on July 16, 2020. The lawsuit was amended to add an additional landowner in November 2020, before a settlement was reached. The affected Yelm property owners received their compensation from the federal government in April.

Stewart, Wald & McCulley recently filed a subsequent lawsuit for another 17 landowners near Yelm who were not part of the 2020 litigation.

“Adjacent landowners to the Yelm-Tenino Trail between the City of Yelm and the City of Roy who have not obtained representation are encouraged to contact Stewart, Wald & McCulley to pursue their claims,” Attorney Michael J. Smith stated in the release. “We have identified numerous parcels along the trail whose owners could potentially be due compensation under the Trails Act.”

Call Michael Smith of Stewart, Wald & McCulley at 314-720-0220 for more information.

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