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Public Lands for the People, Inc. v. United States Department of Agriculture

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Brief Fact Summary.

Public Lands for the People appealed a judgment claiming that the United States Forest Service did not make newly closed roads un-public.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A federal agency is granted deference in the interpretation of it’s own regulations as long as the interpretation is not erroneous or inconsistent with the regulations.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

While prospecting, locating, and developing of mineral resources in the national forests may not be prohibited nor so unreasonably circumscribed as to amount to a prohibition, the Secretary may adopt reasonable rules and regulations which do not impermissibly encroach upon the right to the use and enjoyment of placer claims for mining purposes.

View Full Point of Law

The United States Forest Service (USFS) restricted motor vehicle use in Eldorado National Forest (ENF). The USFS took roads that were previously open for public use and reclassified them as private roads closed to motor vehicles. Miners would now have to get permission to use roads that they previously did not need permission to use. The miners were represented by Public Lands for the People, Inc. (Public Lands). The trial court granted judgment in favor of the USFS and Public Lands appealed.


Whether a federal agency is granted deference in the interpretation of it’s own regulations?


Yes. The judgment of the lower court is affirmed. The USFS decision was not arbitrary because it weighed environmental and use factors before making a decision to close roads that were previously open to the public.


The USFS maintains the authority to regulate access to mining on National Forest Services land and they may adopt and revise regulations to accomplish this goal.

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