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Northern Alaska Envtl. Ctr. v. Lujan

Citation: 19 ELR 20865
No. No. 88-3819, 872 F.2d 901/(9th Cir., 04/14/1989) Judgment for defendant on ANILCA, APA claims aff'd

The court holds that the Secretary of the Interior is not required by the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), or the Mining in the Parks Act (MPA) to conduct on-site field inspections to determine whether a valuable discovery has been made before approving operation plans for unpatented mining claims in national parks in Alaska. The court holds that while ANILCA restricts mining on national park lands to valid patented and unpatented claims existing on ANILCA's effective date, it does not prescribe the factors the Secretary must consider when determining the validity of a mining claim prior to approving a plan of operation. Congress' silence has left selection of the precise procedures employed in claim validity determination to the Secretary's discretion. Similarly, the court holds that the MPA does not impose a duty on the Secretary to conduct a mineral examination to determine the value of a claim. The court holds that the Secretary's decision not to conduct a field inspection and a mineral examination is not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion under the APA. Taking the remoteness of Alaska and the attendant costs of agency personnel and resources into account, the Secretary uses a priority system to determine which procedure should be used to ascertain whether a mining claim is valid. The Secretary examines Bureau of Land Management records to determine compliance with recordation requirements at the time the mineral deposit was located, reviews Geological Survey and Bureau of Mines reports regarding the mine site, and has access to a claimant's information regarding sample assay results, geological testing, and studies, as well as business records of exploration expenditures. The claimant is also interrogated. Based on these data, the Secretary determines which claims require lengthy field investigations and mineral examinations as well as which claims can be decided without field investigations due to extensive data already on hand. The Secretary's decision to channel limited resources in this manner is not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. The court holds that ANILCA does not require a mineral examination in Alaskan parks even though the Secretary requires an examination in the lower 48 states. Alaskan areas added to the National Park System, while governed by ANILCA, must be approached with the climate and geography of Alaska in mind, which requires different application than in national parks in the lower 48 states. Further, the substantial increase in the number of claims within the jurisdiction of the National Park Service after passage of ANILCA requires deviation from the procedures in other parks.

[Previous cases in this litigation are published at 15 ELR 21048, 16 ELR 20244, and 17 ELR 20015.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs-Appellants
Eric P. Jorgensen
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
419 Sixth St., Ste. 321, Juneau AK 99801
(907) 586-2751

Counsel for Defendant-Appellee
Martin W. Matzen
Land and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-4426

Before Wright and Rafeedie,* JJ.