Press Release Feb 24, 2020

Supreme Court Hears Landmark Case on Appalachian Trail Protections

The National Parks Conservation Association stands against the influx of irresponsible development on our public lands.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments in U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, a landmark case that could seriously impact protections for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, as well as precedent regarding energy development on federal lands in national parks.

In January, the National Parks Conservation Association joined the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks and prominent park advocates Jon Jarvis, former director of the National Park Service and Pam Underhill, former superintendent of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, in filing a joint amicus brief supporting conservation respondents in the case. All amici curiae listed above are represented by counsel Eubanks & Associates, LLC.

The National Parks Conservation Association stands against the rapidly increasing influx of irresponsible development on our public lands, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, since the current route of the pipeline slices through federal lands within the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The route is a clear violation of the Mineral Leasing Act and other long-standing laws that protect our parks.

Statement of Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association:

“Today, the highest court in our nation heard arguments in a landmark case that could have enormous implications for protections for our beloved national parks.

“Dominion Energy’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline cannot circumvent the law, which clearly states that federal agencies do not have the authority to grant pipeline rights-of-way across lands within the National Park System—of which the Appalachian Trail is unequivocally a part. Only Congress has this authority, should it choose to exercise it.

"Dominion’s legal argument hinges on the notion that the Appalachian Trail is somehow not land—a ludicrous, nonsensical position, and one that we hope the Court rejects.

"Just because the pipeline is going under the ground doesn’t mean it’s invisible. In addition to the impacts from the construction, building the pipeline as routed will mean maintaining a permanent clear-cut area above ground, harming the views and experience for every hiker on the trail.

"If Dominion wants to build this pipeline, they may pursue an alternate route that doesn’t cross the trail on federal lands that are part of the National Park System, or they may request Congressional approval for the right-of-way. Without that approval, there is no authority for this pipeline to be built on National Park System land. The Appalachian Trail is a national treasure, and these protections exist to keep it that way for generations to come.


About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit

About Eubanks & Associates, LLC: Eubanks & Associates, LLC is one of the nation’s premier public interest environmental law firms, with offices in Washington, D.C. and Colorado. The firm represents conservation organizations and individuals in strategic impact litigation in federal appellate and trial courts throughout the country. For more information, visit

Read more from NPCA

  • Blog Post

    A More Complete Story at Gettysburg

    Jul 2023 | By Edward Stierli

    Marking the 160th anniversary of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle, Gettysburg National Military Park has expanded its historical interpretation. Visitors now can learn more about the history of free and…

  • Blog Post

    How National Parks and Monuments Are Designated

    Jul 2023 | By Linda Coutant

    Ever wondered how sites get added to the National Park System? NPCA explains the two processes used to preserve America’s lands and stories.

  • Blog Post

    9 Features You May Not Know About at Indiana Dunes National Park

    Jul 2023 | By Linda Coutant

    Get a taste of wilderness remarkably close to Chicago and other urban centers at Indiana Dunes National Park, which NPCA has been helping to preserve and enhance.