In all modern states, a portion of land is held by central or local governments. This is called public land. The system of tenure of public land, and the terminology used, varies between countries. The following examples illustrate some of the range.
In Portugal the land owned by the State, by the two autonomous regions (Azores and Madeira) and by the local governments (municipalities (Portuguese: municípios) and freguesias) can be of two types: public domain (Portuguese: domínio público) and private domain (Portuguese: domínio privado). The latter is owned like any private entity (and may be sold), while public domain land cannot be sold and it is expected to be used by the public (although it can be leased to private entities for up to 75 years in certain cases). Examples of public domain land are the margins of the sea and of the rivers, roads, streets, railways, ports, military areas, monuments. The State's private domain is managed by Direção-Geral do Tesouro e Finanças and the State's public domain is managed by various entities (state companies and state institutes, like Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente, I.P., Estradas de Portugal, E.P.E., Refer - Rede Ferroviária Portuguesa, E.P.E., APL - Administração do Porto de Lisboa, S.A., etc.).
Public lands on the West Bank of Israel are based on the Ottoman Empire law specifying that land not worked for over ten years becomes 'state lands'. This became the base for deciding cases brought up by Arabs when certain Israeli settlements were created on presumed barren land (see Halamish).
In the United States governmental entities including cities, counties, states, and the federal government all manage land which are referred to as either public lands or the public domain.
The majority of public lands in the United States are held in trust for the American people by the federal government and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the United States National Park Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, or the Fish and Wildlife Service under the Department of the Interior, or by the United States Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture. Other federal agencies that manage public lands include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United States Department of Defense, which includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In general, Congress must legislate the creation or acquisition of new public lands, such as national parks; however, under the 1906 Antiquities Act, also known as the National Monuments Act, the President may designate new national monuments without congressional authorization if the monument is on federally-owned land.
Each western state also received federal "public land" as trust lands designated for specific beneficiaries, which the States are to manage as a condition to acceptance into the union. Those trust lands cannot any longer be considered public lands as allowing any benefits to the "public" would be in breach of loyalty to the specific beneficiaries. The trust lands (two sections, or about 1,280 acres (5.2 km2) per township) are usually managed extractively (grazing or mining), to provide revenue for public schools. All states have some lands under state management, such as state parks, state wildlife management areas, and state forests.
Wilderness is a special designation for public lands which have been completely undeveloped. The concept of wilderness areas was legislatively defined by the 1964 Wilderness Act. Wilderness areas can be managed by any of the above Federal agencies, and some parks and refuges are almost entirely designated wilderness. A wilderness study area is a tract of land that has wilderness characteristics, and is managed as wilderness, but has not received a wilderness designation from Congress.
Typically each parcel is governed by its own set of laws and rules that explain the purpose for which the land was acquired, and how the land may be used.
The concept of a formal designation and conservation of public lands dates back to our first National Parks. While designating the parks as public, the conservation was another matter. Theodore Roosevelt and his conservation group, Boone and Crockett Club took matters into their own hands, by creating laws and regulations that protected these national treasures. Roosevelt and the Boone and Crockett Club continued on influencing the creation of scores of public lands including the National Refuge System, USFS and the United States National Forest system.
Most state- and federally managed public lands are open for recreational use. Recreation opportunities depend on the managing agency, and run the gamut from the less restrictive, undeveloped wide open spaces of BLM lands to the highly developed and controlled national and state parks. Wildlife refuges and state wildlife management areas, managed primarily to improve habitat, are generally open to wildlife watching, hiking, and hunting, except for closures to protect mating and nesting, or to reduce stress on wintering animals. National forests generally have a mix of maintained trails and roads, wilderness and undeveloped portions, and developed picnic and camping areas.
Historically in the western United States, much public land is leased for grazing by cattle or sheep (most National Park Service areas are closed to livestock grazing). This includes vast tracts of National Forest and BLM land, as well as land on some Wildlife Refuges. National Parks are the exception. This use became controversial in the late 20th century as it was examined by environmentalists and scientists concerned about the impact of these exotic animals on native plant populations and watersheds.
Large tracts of public land in the United States are available for leasing for petroleum or mineral production. Lands which have a high likelihood of producing valuable resources can, as of 2018, command prices as high as $80,000 an acre per year. Large tracts of other lands, where the likelihood of the presence or successful exploitation of resources are very low, could be leased, as of 2018, for as low as $1.50 an acre per year. The Trump administration greatly expanded mineral leasing resulting in a substantial increase in fracking in likely locations in Wyoming and New Mexico, but a great deal of land where prospects for successful production was very low was leased at very low rates to speculators.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior that administers more than 247.3 million acres (1,001,000 km2) of public lands in the United States which constitutes one eighth of the landmass of the country. President Harry S. Truman created the BLM in 1946 by combining two existing agencies: the General Land Office and the Grazing Service. The agency manages the federal government's nearly 700 million acres (2,800,000 km2) of subsurface mineral estate located beneath federal, state and private lands severed from their surface rights by the Homestead Act of 1862. Most BLM public lands are located in these 12 western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
The mission of the BLM is "to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations." Originally BLM holdings were described as "land nobody wanted" because homesteaders had passed them by. All the same, ranchers hold nearly 18,000 permits and leases for livestock grazing on 155 million acres (630,000 km2) of BLM public lands. The agency manages 221 wilderness areas, 27 national monuments and some 636 other protected areas as part of the National Conservation Lands (formerly known as the National Landscape Conservation System), totaling about 36 million acres (150,000 km2). In addition the National Conservation Lands include nearly 2,400 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, and nearly 6,000 miles of National Scenic and Historic Trails. There are more than 63,000 oil and gas wells on BLM public lands. Total energy leases generated approximately $5.4 billion in 2013, an amount divided among the Treasury, the states, and Native American groups.California Land Act of 1851
The California Land Act of 1851 (9 Stat. 631), enacted following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the admission of California as a state in 1850, established a three-member Public Land Commission to determine the validity of prior Spanish and Mexican land grants. It required landowners who claimed title under the Mexican government to file their claim with a commission within two years. Contrary to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which guaranteed full protection of all property rights for Mexican citizens, it placed the burden on landholders to prove their title.
While the commission eventually confirmed 604 of the 813 claims, almost all of the claims went to court and resulted in protracted litigation. The expense of the long court battles required many land holders to sell portions of the property or even trade it in payment for legal services. A few cases were litigated into the 1940s.Donation Land Claim Act
The Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, sometimes known as the Donation Land Act, was a statute enacted in late 1850 by the United States Congress. It was intended to promote homestead settlements in the Oregon Territory. The law, a forerunner of the later Homestead Act, brought thousands of white settlers into the new territory, swelling the ranks of settlers traveling along the Oregon Trail. 7,437 land patents were issued under the law, which expired in late 1855.Homestead Acts
The Homestead Acts were several laws in the United States by which an applicant could acquire ownership of government land or the public domain, typically called a homestead. In all, more than 160 million acres (0.65 million km2; 250 thousand sq mi) of public land, or nearly 10 percent of the total area of the United States, was given away free to 1.6 million homesteaders; most of the homesteads were west of the Mississippi River.
An extension of the homestead principle in law, the Homestead Acts were an expression of the Free Soil policy of Northerners who wanted individual farmers to own and operate their own farms, as opposed to Southern slave-owners who wanted to buy up large tracts of land and use slave labor, thereby shutting out free white farmers.
The first of the acts, the Homestead Act of 1862, opened up millions of acres. Any adult who had never taken up arms against the Federal government of the United States could apply. Women and immigrants who had applied for citizenship were eligible. The 1866 Act explicitly included black Americans and encouraged them to participate, but rampant discrimination slowed black gains. Historian Michael Lanza argues that while the 1866 law pack was not as beneficial as it might have been, it was part of the reason that by 1900 one fourth of all Southern black farmers owned their own farms.Several additional laws were enacted in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Southern Homestead Act of 1866 sought to address land ownership inequalities in the south during Reconstruction. The Timber Culture Act of 1873 granted land to a claimant who was required to plant trees—the tract could be added to an existing homestead claim and had no residency requirement.
The Kinkaid Amendment of 1904 granted a full section—640 acres (260 ha)–to new homesteaders settling in western Nebraska. An amendment to the Homestead Act of 1862, the Enlarged Homestead Act, was passed in 1909 and doubled the allotted acreage from 160 to 320 acres (65 to 129 ha). Another amended act, the national Stock-Raising Homestead Act, was passed in 1916 and again increased the land involved, this time to 640 acres (260 ha).Land Public Transport Agency (Malaysia)
The Land Public Transport Commission (Malay: Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat), abbreviated SPAD, was a disbanded Malaysian statutory body set up to plan for, regulate and enforce rules concerning land-based public and freight transport in Malaysia (2010-2018).Land grant
A land grant is a grant of land – held by a government to hold until the land it granted to a person. The United States historically gave out numerous land grants to people desiring farmland. The American Industrial Revolution was guided by many supportive acts of legislatures (for example, the Main Line of Public Works legislation of 1826) promoting commerce or transportation infrastructure development by private companies, such as the Cumberland Road turnpike, the Lehigh Canal, the Schuylkill Canal, and the many railroads that tied the young United States together.Morrill Land-Grant Acts
The Morrill Land-Grant Acts are United States statutes that allowed for the creation of land-grant colleges in U.S. states using the proceeds of federal land sales. The Morrill Act of 1862 (7 U.S.C. § 301 et seq.) was enacted during the American Civil War and the Morrill Act of 1890 (the Agricultural College Act of 1890 (26 Stat. 417, 7 U.S.C. § 321 et seq.)) expanded this model.National Conservation Lands
National Conservation Lands, formally known as the National Landscape Conservation System, is a 35-million-acre (140,000 km2) collection of lands in 873 federally recognized areas considered to be the crown jewels of the American West. These lands represent 10% of the 258 million acres (1,040,000 km2) managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM is the largest federal public land manager and is responsible for over 40% of all the federal public land in the nation. The other major federal public land managers include the US Forest Service (USFS), National Park Service (NPS), and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
Over the years, the Bureau of Land Management has had to adjust its approach to public land management to fit the changing needs of the nation. The BLM historically has managed lands under its jurisdiction for extractive uses, such as mining, logging, grazing, and oil and gas production. In 1983, Congress acknowledged the value of watersheds, wildlife habitat, recreation, scenery, scientific exploration and other non-extractive uses with the designation of the first BLM-managed wilderness area—the Bear Trap Canyon unit of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in Montana. In 1996, President Clinton underscored non-extractive priorities on BLM lands when he established the first national monument to be administered by the BLM—the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. With this and several similar designations, a new focus emerged that would become part of how the agency looks at the land it manages: the protection of special areas where conservation and restoration of the landscape and its biological or cultural resources is the overriding objective.
The Bureau of Land Management's National Landscape Conservation System, better known as the National Conservation Lands, was created in 2000 with the mission to "conserve, protect, and restore these nationally significant landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values for the benefit of current and future generations."There are ten different federal conservation designations for the units that make up the National Conservation Lands:
National Conservation Area
Wilderness Study Area
National Wild and Scenic River
National Scenic Trail
National Historic Trail
Cooperative Management and Protection Area
Outstanding Natural AreaThe Conservation System was created in 2000, but without Congressional authorization, there was no guarantee that the System would be permanent. The National Landscape Conservation System Act was signed into law in March 2009. The Act permanently unified the individual units as a public lands System, protecting the System in law so that it would no longer exist at the pleasure of each president. This marked the first new congressionally authorized public lands system in decades.
The Conservation System act was included in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which also added 1,200,000 acres (490,000 ha) of new designations to the System, including a National Monument, three National Conservation Areas, Wilderness, Wild and Scenic Rivers and National Scenic Trails.National Trails System
The National Trails System was created by the National Trails System Act (Pub.L. 90–543, 82 Stat. 919, enacted October 2, 1968), codified at 16 U.S.C. § 1241 et seq.
The Act created a series of National trails "to promote the preservation of, public access to, travel within, and enjoyment and appreciation of the open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources of the Nation." Specifically, the Act authorized three types of trails: the National Scenic Trails, National Recreation Trails and connecting-and-side trails. The 1968 Act also created two national scenic trails: the Appalachian and the Pacific Crest; and requested that an additional fourteen trail routes be studied for possible inclusion.
In 1978, as a result of the study of trails that were most significant for their historic associations, a fourth category of trail was added: the National Historic Trails. Since 1968, over forty trail routes have been studied for inclusion in the system. Of these studied trails, twenty-one have been established as part of the system. Today, the National Trails System consists of 30 National Scenic and Historic Trails and over 1,000 National Recreation Trail and two connecting-and-side trails, with a total length of more than 50,000 miles (80,000 km). These National Trails are more than just for hiking, many are also open for horseback riding, mountain biking, camping and/or scenic driving.
As Congressionally established long-distance trails, each one is administered by a federal agency, either the Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, or National Park Service. Two of the trails are jointly administered by the BLM and the NPS. Occasionally, these agencies acquire lands to protect key sites, resources and viewsheds. More often than not, they work in partnership with the states, local units of government, land trusts and private landowners, to protect lands and structures along these trails, enabling them to be accessible to the public. National Recreation Trails and connecting-and-side trails do not require Congressional action, but are recognized by actions of the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture. All of the National Trails are supported by private non-profit organizations that work with the various federal agencies under the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS).
The Act is codified as 16 U.S.C. §§ 1241–1251. However, it has been amended numerous times since its passage, most recently on October 18, 2004 (Pub.L. 108–342).Oklahoma Panhandle
The Oklahoma Panhandle is the extreme northwestern region of the U.S. state of Oklahoma, consisting of Cimarron County, Texas County and Beaver County, from west to east. As with other salients in the United States, its name comes from the similarity of its shape to the handle of a pan.
The three-county Oklahoma Panhandle region had a population of 28,751 at the 2010 U.S. Census, representing 0.77% of the state's population. This is a decrease in total population of 1.2%, a loss of 361 people, from the 2000 U.S. Census.Public Land Survey System
The Public Land Survey System (PLSS) is the surveying method developed and used in the United States to plat, or divide, real property for sale and settling. Also known as the Rectangular Survey System, it was created by the Land Ordinance of 1785 to survey land ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris in 1783, following the end of the American Revolution. Beginning with the Seven Ranges, in present-day Ohio, the PLSS has been used as the primary survey method in the United States. Following the passage of the Northwest Ordinance, in 1787, the Surveyor General of the Northwest Territory platted lands in the Northwest Territory. The Surveyor General was later merged with the General Land Office, which later became a part of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Today, the BLM controls the survey, sale, and settling of the new lands. Contrary to what some believe, the BLM does not manage the State Plane Coordinate System (SPCS). The SPCS is managed by the National Geodetic Survey (NGS), known as the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (USC&GS) when the system was created.Right of way
Right of way is "the legal right, established by usage or grant, to pass along a specific route through grounds or property belonging to another", or "a path or thoroughfare subject to such a right". This article is mainly about access by foot, by bicycle, horseback, or along a waterway, and Right-of-way (transportation) focusses on highways, railways, pipelines, etc. A footpath is a right of way that can only be used by pedestrians.
A similar right of access also exists on some public land in the United States. In Canada, Australia and New Zealand, such land may alternatively be called Crown land.
In some countries, especially in Northern Europe, where the freedom to roam has historically taken the form of general public rights, a right of way may not be restricted to specific paths or trails.
When one person owns a piece of land which is bordered on all sides by lands owned by others, a court will be obliged to grant that person a right of way through the bordering land.Southern Homestead Act of 1866
The Southern Homestead Act of 1866 is a United States federal law enacted to break a cycle of debt during the Reconstruction following the American Civil War. Prior to this act, blacks and whites alike were having trouble buying land. Sharecropping and tenant farming had become ways of life. This act attempted to solve this by selling land at low prices so that southerners could buy it. Many people, however, could still not participate because the low prices were still too high.Survey township
Survey township, sometimes called Congressional township, as used by the United States Public Land Survey System, refers to a square unit of land, that is nominally six (U.S. Survey) miles (~9.7 km) on a side. Each 36-square-mile (~93 km2) township is divided into 36 one-square-mile (~2.6 km2) sections, that can be further subdivided for sale, and each section covers a nominal 640 acres (2.6 km2). The townships are referenced by a numbering system that locates the township in relation to a principal meridian (north-south) and a base line (east-west). For example, Township 2 North, Range 4 East is the 4th township east of the principal meridian and the 2nd township north of the base line. Township (exterior) lines were originally surveyed and platted by the US General Land Office using contracted private survey crews. Later survey crews subdivided the townships into sections (interior) lines. Virtually all lands covered by this system were sold according to these boundaries. They are marked on the U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps.The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land is a U.S. nonprofit organization with a mission to "create parks and protect land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come." Since its founding in 1972, The Trust for Public Land has completed 5,000 park-creation and land conservation projects across the United States, protected over 3 million acres, and helped pass more than 500 ballot measures--creating $70 billion in voter-approved public funding for parks and open spaces. The Trust for Public Land also researches and publishes authoritative data about parks, open space, conservation finance, and urban climate change adaptation. Headquartered in San Francisco, the organization is among the largest U.S. conservation nonprofits, with approximately 30 field offices across the U.S., including a federal affairs function in Washington, D.C.Timber Culture Act
The Timber Culture Act was a follow-up act to the Homestead Act. The Timber Culture Act was passed by Congress in 1873. The act allowed homesteaders to get another 160 acres (65 ha) of land if they planted trees on one-fourth of the land, because the land was "almost one entire plain of grass, which is and ever must be useless to cultivating man." (qtd. in Daily Life on the 19th Century American Frontier by Aleesha White)United States Fish and Wildlife Service
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or FWS) is an agency of the US Federal Government within the US Department of the Interior dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats. The mission of the agency is "working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people."
Aurelia Skipwith is current President Donald Trump's nominee.Among the responsibilities of the FWS are enforcing federal wildlife laws; protecting endangered species; managing migratory birds; restoring nationally significant fisheries; conserving and restoring wildlife habitat, such as wetlands; helping foreign governments with their international conservation efforts; and distributing money to states' fish and wildlife agencies through the Wildlife Sport Fish and Restoration Program.Sub-units of the FWS include:
National Wildlife Refuge System—560 National Wildlife Refuges and thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas covering over 150 million acres (607,000 km²)
Division of Migratory Bird Management
Federal Duck Stamp
National Fish Hatchery System—70 National Fish Hatcheries and 65 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices
Endangered Species program—86 Ecological Services Field Stations
International Affairs Program
National Conservation Training Center
USFWS Office of Law Enforcement
Clark R. Bavin National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory
Landscape Conservation CooperativesThe vast majority of fish and wildlife habitat is on non-federal state or private land. Therefore, the FWS works closely with private groups such as Partners in Flight and Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council to promote voluntary habitat conservation and restoration.
The FWS employs approximately 9,000 people and is organized into a central administrative office in Falls Church, Virginia, eight regional offices, and nearly 700 field offices distributed throughout the United States.Wilding conifer
Wilding conifers, also known as wilding pines, are invasive trees in the high country of New Zealand. Millions of dollars are spent on controlling their spread.
In the South Island, they threaten 210,000 hectares of public land administered by the Department of Conservation. They are also present on privately owned land and other public land such as roadsides. The wilding conifers are considered to be a threat to biodiversity, farm productivity and to landscape values. Since they often invade tussock grasslands – which are characterised by low-lying vegetation that is considered to be a natural environment – the tall trees become a prominent and unwanted feature.Wyoming Range
The Wyoming Range is a mountain range located in western Wyoming. It is a range of the Rocky Mountains that runs north-south near the western edge of the state. Its highest peak is Wyoming Peak, which stands at 11,383 feet (3,470 m) above sea-level. The range is sometimes referred to as The Wyomings.
The vast majority of the range is public land administered by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Bridger-Teton National Forest and is a popular destination for hiking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, snowmobiling, hunting, and other activities. The range contains numerous lakes and developed campgrounds, in addition to many wild and primitive areas. The closest towns to the range include Big Piney, Marbleton, La Barge, and Kemmerer.
A branch of the Oregon Trail known as the Lander Road traverses the mountain range. The cutoff offered emigrants a shorter travel option. Numerous grave sites and historical markers can be found relating to the trail.
The range is not to be confused with the Salt River Range, which runs closely parallel to the Wyoming Range on its western side. The two ranges are separated by Greys River that flows north through the Star Valley into the Snake River.
The United States House of Representatives voted March 25, 2009, to grant wilderness status to two million acres (8,000 km²) of public land in nine states. The Omnibus Public Land Management Act, which had already been passed by the Senate, was approved in the House by a 285-to-140 vote. It was signed into law March 30 by President Barack Obama. The legislation included the Wyoming Range Legacy Act, which shields 1,200,000 acres (4,900 km2) of the Wyoming Range from future oil and gas leasing. Leases that were issued in the 1,200,000 acres (4,900 km2) withdrawal area prior to passage of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act were not affected by the legislation.