from the Judgment entered on September 6, 2017, in the Court
of Common Pleas of Adams County, Civil Division at No(s):
BEFORE: LAZARUS, J., KUNSELMAN, J., and FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.
L. Taylor's three logging companies appeal from the
judgment following a non-jury trial, in which Duane Williams
sought to prohibit the Taylor Companies from driving over a
private lane on his property. The trial judge found that the
Taylor Companies may not, as a matter of law, obtain a
prescriptive easement under Pennsylvania's Unenclosed
Woodlands Act of 1850. We affirm.
8.1 billion trees comprise Pennsylvania - a/k/a
"Penn's woods." Here, we must consider the
legal status of the trees growing on Mr. Williams' farm,
where a private dirt driveway, Glatfelter Lane, passes
through a wooded area of his property. Mr. Williams sought to
keep the Taylor Companies out of his woods; the Taylor
Companies claimed a right of way over the lane. The dispute
in this matter concerns whether the Taylor Companies are
entitled to an easement by prescription through the trees on
Mr. Williams' property. As discussed more fully below,
the Taylor Companies may not acquire an easement by
prescription if the lane crosses through "unenclosed
woodlands" as defined by law.
below in Mr. Williams' Exhibit #18, Glatfelter Lane runs
from a paved, public road on the eastern side of the farm;
past a few buildings; along the northern edge of a cornfield;
and then into the trees.
lane initially parallels the arrow drawn on the photograph at
the northern edge of the easternmost cornfield, from the
public road to the "X" in the trees. It is the line
running from the "X, " through the trees, over the
line drawn to indicate a "Drainage Ditch, " until
reaching a tiny clearing above the second field at the
northwest corner of Mr. Williams' farm. The lane then
re-enters the woods before leaving Mr. Williams' land and
proceeds up the mountain on other properties where the Taylor
Companies desire to log timber.
Glatfelter Lane runs a tiny stream (not visible in the
photograph) that, according to Mark Webb, the forestry expert
who testified at trial, renders the trees and shrubs in
question a "forested grand riparian buffer . . . to
protect the integrity of the stream." N.T. 6/26/17 at
98. This conservation land use, combined with Mr. Webb's
personal observations of the plant life and his preparation
of several, multi-year, forest-management plans for Mr.
Williams, lead him to conclude that, in his professional
opinion, "most of the Glatfelter Lane passes through
unenclosed woodlands." Id. at 94.
Taylor Companies disagreed with that conclusion.
Specifically, Mr. Taylor testified that his unique
perspective as a lumberjack informed his view of the trees
adjacent to and surrounding the lane. He testified, because
"I am a sawmill owner and the timber buyer and a lumber
grade salesman, I look at trees a little bit differently than
others and as I drove up that lane, there was not a single
tree that jumped out to me and said come cut me . . . None of
the trees were of merchantable value . . ." Id.
at 110. To him, a "woodland" is limited only to a
wooded area that contains commercially suitable timber.
court conducted a bench trial in this quiet title action. On
appeal, our appellate role is limited to determining:
whether the findings of the trial court are supported by
competent evidence and whether the trial court committed
error in any application of the law. The findings of fact of
the trial judge must be given the same weight and effect on
appeal as the verdict of a jury. We consider the evidence in
a light most favorable to the verdict winner. We will reverse
the trial court only if its findings of fact are not
supported by competent evidence in the record or if its
findings are premised on an error of law. However, where the
issue concerns a question of law, our scope of review is
The trial court's conclusions of law on appeal
originating from a non-jury trial are not binding on an
appellate court because it is the appellate court's duty
to determine if the trial court correctly applied the law to
the facts of the case.
Stephan v. Waldron Electric Heating & Cooling
LLC, 100 A.3d 660, 664-665 (Pa. Super. 2014) (citation
omitted). Additionally, the trial judge, as finder of fact,
is free to believe all, part, or none of the evidence, and
this Court will not disturb his credibility determinations.
Voracek v. Crown Castle USA Inc., 907 A.2d 1105,
1108 (Pa. Super. 2006).
Taylor Companies allege three errors on appeal. First, they
assert that the trial judge "erred by applying a legally
insufficient definition of 'woodland' and by
disregarding relevant facts concerning the character of the
land." Taylor Companies' Brief at 7. Second, they
argue that the trial court needed to reach an
"independent factual finding that the land was
'unenclosed.'" Id. And, third, the