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It is clear that the transfer of this property or the custody of this property to the recipient is not completely voluntary on the part of the true owner.  The situation occurs when there is accession or confusion or when property is abandoned, lost or mislaid.  Depending on the circumstances, the courts may determine that the laborer is an innocent trespasser.  An innocent trespasser does not acquire title simply by adding labor and additional materials.  The innocent trespasser will acquire title if a great difference exists in the relative values of the original property and the new property.

So, if title to the property stays with the original owner, the innocent trespasser can recover for the value of the services rendered in improving property.  Because if the owner were allowed to keep these improvements without payment, the owner would have an unjust enrichment and the innocent trespasser would suffer an unjust loss.  The owner would them be obligated to pay for the reasonable value of the improvements this is similar to the theory underlying quasi contracts.

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If Champlin was a willful trespasser, someone who knows he or she has no right to the property then he would not be entitled to any compensation for salvaging the property.  The only provisions that I can see for a contract when dealing with the government would be an addition of transferring the rights of the property from one owner to another after the sale of property.

Reference:

Davidson, D.V., Knowles, B.E., & Forsythe, L.M. (1996). Business Law: Principles and           Cases in the Legal Environment 5th Ed. Cincinnati, Ohio: South-Western College       Publishing.

Fisk, M., Mietus, N.J., & Snapp, J.C. (1972). Applied Business Law 10th Ed.  Cincinnati,            Ohio: South-Western College Publishing.

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