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IBLA Issues Split Ruling on White Swan

On March 15, 2007, the United States Department of the Interior's Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) issued an order in what has become known locally as the White Swan case. In its decision, the IBLA "Affirmed in Part; Reversed in Part" the cessation order issued by the Ridgecrest Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  While we are still reviewing the seventeen page ruling in case IBLA 2004-204, below is the concluding paragraph summaryizing the IBLA's "Order".

"We affirm the BLM's finding that the cabin and other structures on the Silver Swan claim were not being used for any purpose reasonably incident to mining as required by 43 CFR 3715.2.  At no point during Hall's ownership of mining claims has she provided any justification for keeping these structures on her claims.  Moreover, throughout this appeal, Hall has disclaimed any intention to use these structures for activities reasonably incident to mining operations, making them subject to removal because their presence is unlawful.  Nevertheless, for reasons explained below, we conclude that BLM may not properly hold Hall responsible for removal of the structures, and reverse BLM's decision to the extent that it requires her to remove them."

"Hall" is Mary Louise Hall, the appellant in the case. Where the order reversed the BLM's decision to require Ms. Hall to remove the cabins, this could be viewed as a victory for Ms. Hall in that she cannot be held liable for cost recovery that might result from a clean up of the property by the BLM.  Similarly, where the order affirmed the BLM's decision against Ms. Hall, the BLM can now post the structures as property of the United States Government.

In our preliminary reading of the decision we see that the IBLA takes the BLM to task for mistakes that were made in the handling of this issue.  I expect that there will be much said about this as the ruling is circulated among those who have been following the matter closely.  We, too, hope to comment editorially on the ruling soon.

In the meantime, you can download a PDF copy of the ruling by clicking here.   Note that the file is 6 MB in size.