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Bolt v. United States

filed: September 16, 1991.

ALEX WAYNE BOLT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR; BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT; PTARMIGAN CO., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Alaska; D.C. No. CV-87-0106-HRH; H. Russel Holland, District Judge, Presiding.

Eugene A. Wright and Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Circuit Judges, and Philip M. Pro,*fn* District Judge.

Author: O'scannlain

O'SCANNLAIN, Circuit Judge

We consider whether the annual recordation requirements of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 ("FLPMA") are applicable to mining claims located within national parks.

I

Ptarmigan Company, Inc., is a corporation owned almost exclusively by Kirk Stanley. Ptarmigan owned a number of lode mining claims, the most valuable of which were the unpatented "Rambler Claims" in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve near Nabesna, Alaska.

Under section 314 of FLPMA, codified at 43 U.S.C. § 1744, mining claims must be recorded annually with the Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") "prior to December 31 of each year." 43 U.S.C. § 1744(a) (FLPMA § 314(a)). The Department of Interior has ruled that holders of mining claims in national parks must register annually with the BLM in the fashion required by FLPMA. See 36 C.F.R. § 9.5 (relying principally upon the Mining in Parks Act of 1976 ("MPA") for statutory authority).

On December 30, 1982, Stanley traveled the 300 miles to Anchorage to file the required affidavit for 1982. (Unbeknownst to Stanley, the Secretary of the Interior had promulgated a rule that permitted the annual filing to be accomplished by mail postmarked by December 30.) Unfortunately, Stanley was delayed by a winter storm, and did not arrive in Anchorage until 6:00 p.m. Believing the BLM office closed at that hour - it was not - Stanley instead went by the office on the following day, Friday, December 31. Finding the office closed for a national holiday, Stanley mailed his affidavit to the BLM on that day. It was received on Monday, January 3, 1983.

In May 1983, Ptarmigan began negotiations with Alex Wayne Bolt to lease the Rambler Claims. Ptarmigan and Bolt executed a written lease on July 1, 1983, conditioned upon National Park Service ("NPS") approval of Bolt's plan of operation. The NPS gave the go-ahead on July 18, though expressly advising that "this action . . . should in no way be construed as a final determination of validity of the claims which is yet to be made." Bolt began construction of a road to the claims and other preparations, ultimately expending in excess of $250,000.

On December 13, 1983, the BLM notified Ptarmigan by letter that the Rambler Claims were void due to Ptarmigan's late filing for 1982. Ptarmigan appealed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals ("IBLA"), and Bolt intervened. The appeal was stayed pending the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Locke, 471 U.S. 84, 85 L. Ed. 2d 64, 105 S. Ct. 1785 (1985). Following Locke, the IBLA denied Ptarmigan's appeal in relevant part.*fn1

Intervenor Bolt filed a complaint for review in the federal district court, asserting numerous claims. Among the contentions were the following: (1) FLPMA § 314 does not apply on its own terms to mining claims located in national parks; (2) the regulation adopted pursuant to the MPA that applies FLPMA § 314 to mining claims located in national parks, 36 C.F.R. § 9.5, exceeds statutory authority; (3) the NPS's approval of the plan of operation estopped the BLM from challenging the validity of the mining claims; and, (4) the forfeiture of the mining claims amounts to a taking under the fifth amendment.

On February 7, 1989, visiting District Judge Muecke dismissed the challenge to the regulation on the ground that the six-year statute of limitations applicable to actions against the government had elapsed. Bolt appeals the dismissal.

In a lengthy order issued March 30, 1990, District Judge Holland disposed of all remaining counts on a motion for summary judgment, although neither party had moved for summary judgment on the estoppel or taking issues. The court concluded that FLPMA § 314 applied to mining claims located in national parks, according substantial deference to the interpretation of the Secretary of the Interior. The taking claim was dismissed under a straightforward application of Locke. Finally, the estoppel claims failed because Ptarmigan was not shown to be ...


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