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Mineral Leasing Act (1920)

The Mineral Leasing Act (MLA), which President Woodrow Wilson approved as a federal law on February 25, 1920 clarified legal aspects of oil and natural gas extraction o federal public lands, especially in western states. Officials recognized that previous prospecting laws, which were devised to regulate the activities of individual miners, were inadequate to deal with corporations drilling on federal properties. MLA specified who could secure leases to seek natural resources on public lands and how federal and state governments would be compensated.

In the mid-nineteenth century, prospectors rushed west to stake claims to hard-rock minerals. Some miners first noticed oil during the 1860s at Pico Canyon in California. Congress passed legislation in 1872, stating prospectors could claim mineral resources on public land. The Oil ...

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