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Dredge Mining and Wild Burros—A Tale of Two Cases and the Issue of State Versus Federal Regulation of Mineral Development on Public Domain Lands

Kenneth D. Hubbard, Proceedings of 23rd Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1977)

During the past decade, increasing attention has been focused on issues relating to governmental regulation of mineral development. This trend results largely from the juxtaposition of two developments. The first is a newly-awakened concern with environmental protection. This concern has resulted in substantial new environmentally-directed regulation, both at the state and the federal levels.1 The second development is the somewhat more recent discovery of an energy crisis. Doubts as to the long-range adequacy of domestic petroleum supplies and uncertainty as to the future availability of foreign petroleum at a reasonable price have stimulated renewed interest in energy-related domestic mineral development. [72] Enhanced interest in mineral development during a period of equally enhanced interest in environmentally protective regulation has inevitably led to various confusions and conflicts.

The federal government is one of the principal owners of valuable deposits of strippable coal and other minerals in the United States.2 The resultant pressures on the federal government to allow the development of these resources, coupled with the demands of the public for the protection of environmental values, have created the potential for a substantial amount of confusion and conflict related to the issue of the appropriate roles of the federal and state governments in regulat