To begin, we will review the statutes and regulations governing the leasing of federal lands. Such a review will indicate not only the legal foundations but also the nature of actual practice. Incidentally, it will also provide the basis for later indicating whether changes in the law would be required to authorize certain changes in practice that have been or may be suggested. We will make no attempt in this review to cover every detail of law; rather, our purpose will be to bring out those major features which have a bearing on the largely economic analysis that constitutes the bulk of this study.
The presentation is organized by statutes, but at appropriate points we will provide the content of major amplifying regulations. We will ignore those regulations that merely repeat statutory provisions, or those that concern administrative details of no particular relevance to our study. Also, at this time we will not discuss operating regulations governing lessees; these will be taken up at a later point in the context of efficiency, conservation, and related matters.
The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 is the basic law governing the leasing of onshore public lands (as distinguished from the outer continental shelf, covered by another statute).1 The act provides that
. . . Deposits of coal, phosphate, sodium, potassium, oil, oil shale, native asphalt, solid and semisolid bitumen, and bituminous rock, or gas,