The U.S. Supreme Court will review a case about flooding that property rights and timber groups think could have broader implications for government actions that affect landowners.
The case pertains to federal dam operations in Arkansas that resulted in several years of recurrent flooding that harmed forest land owned by the state.
Arkansas sued the federal government, claiming the floods were a form of government taking of property without just compensation.
A federal court awarded the state $5.7 million in damages, but that judgment was overturned on appeal because the floods were not permanent.
The nation's highest court has agreed to decide whether such temporary flooding can be considered a government taking of property.
"It's going to hopefully bring clarity to the law about temporary physical takings," said Scott Horngren, attorney for the American Forest Resource Council.
For example, the eventual ruling could open the door for landowners to seek compensation in cases where federally protected species temporarily occupy their property, he said.
"It could affect any action by the federal government that temporarily deprives private property of its utility," said R.S. Radford, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, a property rights group.
-- Mateusz Perkowski
Unless the government can be held liable for temporary takings, "you have no incentive on the part of the feds to behave responsibly," he said.