Helping companies to navigate complex federal public land laws 


Parsons Behle & Latimer regularly assist energy and natural resource companies in all stages of public land development – including property acquisition, permitting, operations, closure and reclamation. Because much of the land in the West is owned by the federal government, energy and natural resource companies doing business here inevitably face the challenge of securing rights to use public land. Parsons' deep roots in this region give our attorneys a unique understanding of those challenges. For more than 125 years, we have helped clients through the regulatory maze imposed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service on companies that wish to site facilities on federal land. Through that work, Parsons' public land attorneys have developed key and longstanding relationships with those agencies throughout the West and in Washington, D.C.

We are experienced in all aspects of property acquisitions on public land, including obtaining and perfecting mining claims; obtaining mineral and surface leases; completing land exchanges; and obtaining rights-of-way, special use permits and other access rights. In addition, our permitting team has guided clients through hundreds of NEPA environmental assessments and environmental impact statements and various permitting processes, from the simplest notice of intent to the most complex plan of operation. This includes ensuring compliance with the many resource protection laws applicable to public lands, including the National Historic Preservation Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Eagle Protection Act. Finally, our attorneys have assisted numerous clients in preparing and implementing the reclamation and closure plans necessary to responsibly and legally close an operation.


Key Contacts

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Director of Wyo. Lands v Merbanco, 70 P.3d 241 (Wyo.2003)

On case of first impression to Wyoming Supreme Court successfully established constitutional authority for the exchange of state school trust lands as an alternative to sale, thereby protecting the loss of school lands with conservation value.

FERC Order

On behalf of Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District, Parsons Behle & Latimer petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a declaratory order recognizing that the federal agency has no jurisdiction over power wheeling rates set by Grant Public Utility District (PUD). Parsons' client utilizes power reserved from Grand Coulee Dam, wheeled over Grant PUD's system, to deliver water to nearly 250,000 acres of prime farmland in eastern and central Washington. Grant PUD asserted it can no longer provide reduced or discounted rates for wheeling this federal power over its transmission system due to FERC jurisdiction under the Federal Power Act; instead they must charge the standard rate. Parsons contended that rate setting by a municipal entity in Washington State is a matter of state law, based upon the plain wording of the Federal Power Act and existing precedent, and that the unique circumstances and history of wheeling federal reserved power for the irrigation project can be considered by Grant PUD in setting a different rate. Grant PUD and several national trade associations opposed Parsons' petition and sought dismissal. FERC granted Parsons' petition on July 15, finding that it has no authority to regulate such rates and that issuing a declaratory order would assist in resolving the matter between the client and Grant PUD. FERC also noted that Grant PUD has previously set a different transmission rate for the irrigation district's power wheeling than it has for others, further confirming that it can do so in the future. As a result, Parsons' client is able to renew its proposal to Grant PUD avoiding significant (70%) increased rates for the farmers who the irrigation district serves.


Opposition to Acquisition

Defended client in proposed acquisition by Canadian utility company based on rate and public interest concerns. Decision for client based on the premise that an Idaho utility company cannot be purchased by a foreign government or entity owned by a foreign government.