Law School Case Brief
United States v. Locke - 471 U.S. 84, 105 S. Ct. 1785 (1985)
Section 314 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), 43 U.S.C.S. § 1744, establishes a system designed to rid federal lands of stale mining claims and to provide up-to-date information for informed land management decisions. For claims located before FLPMA’s enactment, the claims must initially be registered with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) by filing, within three years of FLPMA’s enactment, a copy of the official record of the notice or certificate of location under 43 U.S.C.S. § 1744(b). Second, in the year of the initial recording, and prior to December 31 of every year after that, the claimant must file with state officials and with BLM a notice of intention to hold the claim, an affidavit of assessment work performed on the claim, or a detailed reporting form under 43 U.S.C.S. § 1744(a). The FLPMA § 314(c), 43 U.S.C.S. § 1744(c), provides that failure to comply with either of these requirements shall be deemed conclusively to constitute an abandonment of the mining claim by the owner.
Appellee owners of forfeited mining claims on federal lands, failed to timely file the annual notice of their intent to hold their claims and thereby forfeited their claims under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), 43 U.S.C.S. §§ 1701 et seq. After losing an administrative appeal before the Bureau of Land Management, appellees brought an action in district court challenging the forfeitures. The district court held that the forfeiture provisions of the FLPMA violated the Fifth Amendment. The government consequently appealed.
Did the forfeiture provisions of the FLPMA violate the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?
After holding the forfeitures under the FLPMA valid on non-constitutional statutory grounds, the Supreme Court held that the forfeiture provisions of the FLPMA did not constitute the deprivation of property without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The court held that appellees had adequate notice that they could have avoided forfeiture with minimal effort and that the loss of mining claims under such circumstances did not require government compensation.
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