Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Kunkes v. United States

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 21107
Nos. 95-5031, 78 F.3d 1549/(Fed. Cir., 03/15/1996)

The court holds that a federal statutory requirement that holders of unpatented mining claims pay $100 per claim in 1993 and 1994 or else forfeit their claims did not effect an uncompensated taking of claimholders' property in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The fee replaced a requirement that claimholders annually perform $100 of assessment work on each claim. Appellant claimholders forfeited their 573 claims because they were allegedly unable to pay nearly $115,000 in fees to keep the claims. The court first holds that the parties correctly treat this case as a regulatory taking claim, because it is the claimholders' failure to comply with the otherwise valid regulatory requirements of the law that causes the forfeiture of their previously owned interests. The court next holds that the fee serves the legitimate governmental purpose of ridding federal lands of stale mining claims and providing for centralized collection by federal land managers of comprehensive and up-to-date information on the status and worth of these claims. The court holds that the reasonableness of the fee is measured not by the claimholders' ability to pay, but by an objective evaluation of the impact of the regulatory imposition against the value of the property remaining. The court notes that the trial court based its conclusion that the fee was reasonable on a comparison of the fee amount with both the value of assessment work previously required and the appraised value of the mineral claims. The court holds that it is entirely reasonable for Congress to require a $100 per claim fee in order to assess whether the claimholders believe that the value of the minerals in their claims is sufficiently great to warrant such a payment and whether claimholders have the resources and desire to develop these claims.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Lynn C. Rodgers
Hall, Ansley, Rodgers & Condry
620 S. Glenstone Dr., Ste. 200, Springfield MO 65802
(417) 865-5000

Counsel for Defendant
Lisa E. Jones
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before RICH and PLAGER, Circuit Judges, and COWEN, Senior Circuit Judge.