United States v. Weiss
642 F.2d 296 (9th Cir. 1981)

  • Weiss had staked a mining claim within the St. Joe National Forest. He began mining operations without complying with a US Forest Service regulation requiring an approved operating plan to minimize the environmental effects of the mining.
  • The Forest Service sued for an injunction to stop Weiss' mining.
    • Weiss argued that he had a claim to build a mine, and that claim was not subject to any regulations that the Forest Service may issue about National Forests.
      • Weiss staked his claim under the General Mining Law of 1872 (30 U.S.C. 22).
    • The Forest Service argued that 16 U.S.C. 478 required that miners must comply with the rules and regulations covering National Forests.
    • The Forest Service argued that 16 U.S.C. 551 allowed the Secretary of Agriculture to make rules and regulations to insure the preservation of National Forests.
  • The Trial Court found for the Forest Service and issued the injunction. Weiss appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court looked to 478 and 551 and found that they do grant the Secretary of Agriculture the right to adopt reasonable rules and regulations regarding mining operations within National Forests.
    • The Court found that Weiss had a right of possession and enjoyment of the surface resources within his claim, the "primary title, the paramount ownership is in the government," and that the government "retains the title, with a valuable residuary and reversionary interest."
      • Basically, once Weiss eventually mined everything he wanted to mine out of the land, the claim would end and the land would revert back to 100% government control. Therefore, the government had a property interest in the land that they could protect via environmental regulations.