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Access to Department of the Interior Lands Managed For Limited Purposes

Robert D. Comer, Lyle K. Rising, Severed Minerals, Split Estates, Rights of Access, and Surface Use in Mineral Extraction Operations

Special management areas include national parks, fish and wildlife refuges, wild and scenic rivers, and similar areas whose primary management objective is preservation in orientation. Just naming the types of special use areas suggests that we are not dealing with multiple use lands, where commodity uses such as mineral development are one of the many possible uses. Congress has set aside these areas for limited uses, which generally, but not always, precludes commodity-based and non-compatible uses. This does not mean that mining or access are precluded altogether, though, of course, you should not expect to put an access road near Old Faithful. While obtaining access is not impossible, it is more an exception than the rule.

National Park System data indicates that significant activity exists within the parks. There are approximately 1,546 mining claims, which includes 600 patented claims and 600 oil and gas operations. Because Yellowstone was created before the enactment of the Mining Law of 1872, as amended, 2 one would not expect to find a significant number of active mining claims in that park. That will generally be true of nearly all of the older national parks, such as Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Where one does find significant numbers of mining claims is in either new national parks or older parks which have been expanded to include public lan