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Wildearth Guardians Inc. v. Hickman

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department A

September 12, 2013

WILDEARTH GUARDIANS, INC, Plaintiff/Appellant/ Cross-Appellee,
v.
VANESSA HICKMAN, Arizona State Land Commissioner, Defendant/Appellee, GALYN and ROXANNE KNIGHT, Defendants/Appellees/ Cross-Appellants.

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause No. CV2008-022955 The Honorable John R. Ditsworth, Judge

Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest Phoenix By Timothy M. Hogan Joy E. Herr-Cardillo Attorneys for Appellant/Cross-Appellee WildEarth Guardians, Inc.

Thomas C. Horne, Attorney General Phoenix By Joy Hernbrode, Assistant Attorney General Paul A. Katz, Assistant Attorney General Natural Resources Section Attorneys for Appellee Vanessa Hickman

Brown & Brown Law Offices, PC Eagar By David A. Brown Douglas E. Brown Attorneys for Appellees/Cross-Appellants Galyn & Roxanne Knight

OPINION

KENT E. CATTANI, Judge

¶1 WildEarth Guardians ("WildEarth") appeals from the superior court's judgment affirming the Arizona State Land Department's decision to grant a State Land Trust grazing lease to Galyn and Roxanne Knight. WildEarth also appeals the superior court's award of costs, including expert witness fees, to the Knights. The Knights cross-appeal from the superior court's denial of attorney's fees. For reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment, but we vacate the Knights' cost award to the extent it includes expert witness fees.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

¶2 The Knights held a state trust lands grazing lease for land adjacent to property they own near Springerville, Arizona. Their ten-year lease was set to expire on November 30, 2006. Before the expiration of the lease, WildEarth filed an application with the Arizona State Land Department to lease the same land. The Land Department issued a Notice of Conflicting Applications and requested that each applicant submit a statement of equities addressing the following factors set forth in Arizona Administrative Code ("A.A.C.") R12-5-506(D) for determining which applicant has the highest and best bid:

1. An offer to pay more than appraised rental as an equity, if the Department determines not to go to bid on the conflict;
2. Whether the applicant's proposed land use or land management plan is beneficial to the Trust;
3. The applicant's access to or control of facilities or resources necessary to accomplish the proposed use;
4. The applicant's willingness to reimburse the owner of reimbursable non-removable improvements;
5. The applicant's previous management of land leases, land management plans, or any history of land or resource management ...

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