A long-awaited Sawtooths trail opened last fall. Now landowner wants SCOTUS to rethink it

The U.S. Forest Service last fall opened a trail from an Idaho mountain town to a popular lake after years of waiting and court battles with a local landowner who wanted the path rerouted from an easement on his land.

Now that landowner — David Boren, who co-founded Boise finance software company Clearwater Analytics with his brother Mike — is making a last-ditch attempt to challenge the trail.

Boren’s attorney submitted a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court last week asking it to review the case, which centers on the 4.5-mile Stanley to Redfish Lake Trail. The court must respond to the petition by May 13.

Boren purchased Sawtooth Mountain Ranch, a 1,700-acre property south of Stanley, in 2016. By then, the federal government had an 11-year-old trail easement on the property through an agreement made with the previous owners. The easement was for an anticipated public trail, though details for the project didn’t take shape until 2014 when the Forest Service announced its plans for the route.

That proposal was approved in 2018, and the following year Boren filed a federal lawsuit to stop it. A few months later, construction began on the trail with a judge’s approval.

The initial complaint from Boren and his wife, Lynn Arnone, who is also party to the lawsuit, alleged the Forest Service failed to conduct necessary reviews of the trail’s environmental impacts and violated the Environmental Protection Act, as well as the Sawtooth National Recreation Area’s rules. A second complaint filed later in 2019 asked the court to consider a “quiet title action” — essentially determining whether Boren or the Forest Service has rights to the land.

In 2022, Idaho U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ruled against the couple on all claims. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Dale’s ruling in November 2023, and the court denied a rehearing in January 2024.

The petition submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court said the 9th Circuit’s ruling on the Boren lawsuit created conflicts with other court rulings. It asked the the Supreme Court to clarify some high-level legal questions, such as whether “equitable tolling” should exist for the statute of limitations, extending the statute if the affected party couldn’t discover an issue until after the statute had passed. It also asked for clarification on the options someone has when the government seizes property — whether financial compensation is the only option, or if court declaration or injunction (such as forcing a reroute) could serve the same purpose.

It wasn’t clear from the petition what Boren and Arnone would like to see happen to the already-completed trail. Their attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Jessica Schick, a spokesperson for the Sawtooth National Forest, told the Idaho Statesman in an email that the agency cannot comment on pending litigation. Forest Supervisor Kirk Flannigan told the Statesman the Forest Service does not have user data for the trail. Flannigan said he’s not aware of any complaints made about the trail since it opened.