A federal court recently concluded that a Forest Service special use permit was still valid even though its term expired more than 28 years ago. The court found that the permit remained valid because the permit holder had made a timely and sufficient application for its renewal in 1987. The court noted that the Administrative Procedure Act set out a protection for holders of federal licenses to ensure that their licenses did not expire simply because an agency failed to process their renewal request. Under the law, as long as license holder makes a timely and sufficient application to renew their license, the license “does not expire until the application has been finally determined by the agency” provided the activity is of a continuing nature.
The defendants also argued that the Forest Service’s failure to act on the renewal application for 30 years resulted in the permit becoming invalid because the law required the agency to act within a reasonable time. However, the court rejected this argument based on its conclusion that the law did not require that the license be invalidated if the agency fails to act in a reasonable period. The court further noted that this outcome would contravene the purpose of the statute which was to protect the license holder when the agency delays its review of the application.