The High Court in American Samoa has issued an interim order stopping landowner, Avamua Dave Haleck, from clearing or developing the Tafuna rainforest.
The order was in response to a petition for a preliminary injunction filed by the government, the Department of Commerce and American Samoa Coastal Management Program.
Avamua has been threatening to clear the rainforest property if the government does not purchase the 26 acres known as Naumati.
The government argues that Avamua must first secure a land use permit before he can clear the land.
The Chief Justice, Michael Kruse, noted the case presents an interesting issue: whether rainforest land can somehow sustain individualized land ownership title.
The government wants the rainforest preserved but hasn't been able to come up with the money to purchase the land.
The government is proposing a moratorium on development in the rainforest acreage but Avamua says that amounts to taking land without due process.