The Story of BLM
BLM Logo


The Public Domain From 1776-1946

covererd wagons

There was nothing but land; not a country at all,
but the material out of which countries are made.

—Willa Cather
My Antonia, 1918

The Public Domain from 1776-1946

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today administers what remains of the nation's once vast land holdings—the public domain. The public domain once stretched from the Appalachian Mountains to the Pacific and "constituted," in historian Frederick Jackson Turner's mind, "the richest free gift that was ever spread out before civilized man." Of the 1.8 billion acres of public land acquired by the United States, two-thirds went to individuals, corporations, and the states. Of that remaining, much was set aside for national forests, wildlife refuges, national parks and monuments, and other public purposes, leaving BLM to manage some 270 million acres, as well as 570 million acres of mineral estate.


Lands managed by BLM are often scattered and take on checkerboard, jigsaw, and patchwork patterns, but in much of the Great Basin, desert Southwest, and Alaska, solid blocks of public land predominate. These land patterns are inherited: the result of the public land policies pursued by the country prior to the agency's founding in 1946.

To the young American nation the public domain represented challenge and opportunity—a wilderness waiting to be transformed into an agricultural Eden. The nation also needed revenue. A policy of disposing of public lands through auction seemed to meet both these needs. As the need for revenue lessened, policy shifted to one of development and lands were generously provided to settlers, corporations, and the states. But as the public domain diminished, the government chose to set aside timber, mineral, and grazing lands and regulate their development as a means of preserving the opportunity of the public domain.


"The back Lands [sic] claimed by the British Crown," contended Maryland legislators in November 1776, "if secured by the blood and treasure of all, ought in reason, justice, and policy...be considered as a common stock." With that declaration, Maryland raised the issue of what should become of the territory between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. The issue proved contentious and threatened the bonds that held the new union of states together.


Seven states had claims to the region. Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia had early colonial charters from England granting them title to the lands beyond the Appalachians. New York's claim resulted from concessions by the Iroquois Indians. The remaining states had no claims to the area.

For states without land claims, like Maryland, the disposition of western lands was of major importance. They needed land to reward the soldiers who served in their regiments against the British. Maryland also feared that if Virginia and the other land-claim states took title to lands in the trans-Appalachian West, they would dominate the nation economically and politically. Maryland demanded that the land-claim states relinquish their title to the central government and vowed not to sign the Articles of Confederation until that was done.

The land-claim states resisted Maryland's demand at first. Virginia, Maryland's chief antagonist, declared that the central government had no claim to the western lands. The resolve of Virginia and the other land-claim states, however, weakened as they realized the importance of having Maryland in the union and recognized that their conflicting claims to the western lands could threaten their relations with each another. New York in 1780 took the first step toward compromise by offering to cede its claim to lands beyond the Appalachians to the central government. Maryland reciprocated by signing the Articles of Confederation.

The United States accepted New York's cession in 1781. Three years later, Virginia ceded its interests to the territory north of the Ohio River. Then came the cessions of Massachusetts (1785), Connecticut (1786), South Carolina (1787), North Carolina (1790), and Georgia (1802).

Not all the western lands were ceded. Virginia had granted much of Kentucky to soldiers and other interests during the Revolution and so retained this area. Tennessee, carved from North Carolina, was also withheld from the public domain for much the same reason.

The public domain rapidly grew beyond the bounds of the trans-Appalachian West. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson acquired from France (through the Louisiana Purchase) the immense region drained by the Mississippi River's western tributaries. The purchase doubled the size of the nation.


The Red River Valley of the North came to the United States by the Convention of 1818, which set the boundary with British Canada between Lake Superior and the Rocky Mountains at the 49th Parallel. By treaty with Spain the following year, Florida was acquired and the western border of the Louisiana Purchase redrawn.


America's "Manifest Destiny" to span the continent was fulfilled in the 1840s. The United States and Britain in 1846 ended their joint occupation of the Oregon Country by dividing the region along the 49th Parallel. That same year also saw the beginning of war with Mexico. American troops seized control of New Mexico and long-coveted California, and by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, the United States took title to the Southwest from Mexico for $15 million.

and the

When Texas joined the Union in 1845, it retained title to its vacant and unappropriated lands. The federal government, however, purchased the northwest portion of Texas in 1850 and added it to the public domain. Three years later, James Gadsden negotiated the purchase of 19 million acres along the Mexican border needed for a southern transcontinental railroad route. The region was described at the time by Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton as "utterly desolate, desert, and God-forsaken."

Texas and the

Western land cessions by the original states

"Most astonishing of all the United States' acquisitions of territory," in public land historian Paul Wallace Gates' mind, "was the purchase of Alaska." Americans had expressed no interest in the northern icebox. The Russian Tsar, however, wanted to sell, and in 1867 Secretary of State William H. Seward obliged. For $7.2 million, the United States acquired more than 365 million acres and made its last addition to the public domain.


When New York offered to relinquish its claim to the western lands in 1780, the Congress of the Confederation responded with a pledge that "the unappropriated lands that may be ceded or relinquished to the United States, by any particular state...shall be disposed of for the common benefit of the United States." This raised the issue of how public lands should be disposed of.

Aquisition of the public domain

Most in Congress agreed that the public lands should be used as a source of revenue for the nation's cash-starved treasury and provide land, as promised, to soldiers who had enlisted in the Continental Army. There was sharp difference, however, as to how disposal should be carried out.

Land System

Most southern delegates favored a system of indiscriminate location and subsequent survey, as had been the practice in their states. Others advocated more orderly settlement, voicing arguments set forth by Thomas Jefferson, that indiscriminate location with subsequent survey led only to costly and protracted lawsuits as owners sought to establish boundaries. What they wanted was a system, like in New England, where survey preceded settlement.

The Confederation in the Land Ordinance of May 20, 1785, opted for the policy of orderly settlement. After Indian title issues had been quieted by treaty, the public lands were to be surveyed and numbered by the Geographer of the United States into townships, 6 miles square, and seven ranges. (In this, a rectangular survey system, townships are numbered in a north-south direction; ranges, in an east-west direction.) One-seventh of the townships, selected at random, were to be used to satisfy military land warrants. The remaining townships were to be auctioned at not less than $1 an acre. Half the townships were to be offered whole and the other half in "lots," later called sections, 1-mile square. The United States reserved Lot 16 in each of the townships to provide revenue for public schools as well as four other lots for later sale. The government also reserved rights to one third interest in any gold, silver, lead, or copper that might be found.


Operation of the Land Ordinance disappointed Confederation officials. Surveys were slow. The Geographer of the United States Thomas Hutchins began work in the fall of 1785, but dense forests, swamps, and the threat of Indian attack resulted in the survey of only four ranges after 2 years of work.

Surveys Begin

Impatient to sell public lands and bring revenue into the treasury, Congress ordered the completed townships auctioned in the fall of 1787. Not one whole township sold and only 108,431 acres were bid for. Indian troubles, the distance of the lands from agricultural markets, and the availability of cheaper lands in the original 13 states were all factors contributing to the lack of interest.

First Land

Desperate for revenue, the Confederation abandoned the Land Ordinance of 1785 and contracted to sell public lands, without competition, to two speculative land companies: 1.5 million acres to the Ohio Company and 1 million to a company headed by John Cleve Symmes. Both offered Congress mere pennies per acre but, in the end, were able to purchase only a portion of the lands contracted.

Sales to

The United States ratified the Constitution in 1788, rendering the Land Ordinance of 1785 inoperable. A new public land policy had to be enacted. By Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2, of the Constitution, the task fell to Congress, for it had the "Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory and other Property belonging to the United States."

and the Public

Congress debated the public lands questions for several years but no general policy was enacted until 1796. Interestingly, the debates did not center on whether the public lands should continue as a source of revenue, since the national debt continued to be troublesome, but rather to whom the lands should be sold. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton wanted the lands sold to capitalists and land companies who could pay top price for public lands. Pennsylvania Congressman Albert Gallatin, an adherent of Thomas Jefferson thinking on public land matters, did not oppose Hamilton's thinking, but did urge that cash poor farmers be accommodated.

Land System

The Land Law of 1796 sought a compromise between the positions. The law provided for the disposal of the public lands north of the Ohio River by the Department of the Treasury. Lands could be purchased in unlimited quantities at the minimum price of $2 per acre, with the full balance not due for a year. Half the townships sold in quarter townships, the other half was offered in 640-acre sections. Congressman Gallatin and his supporters hoped that settlers would pool their resources to buy the 640-acre tracts, but when bidding for prime agricultural land, monied interests had the advantage.

Land Law of

by Jerry A. O'Callaghan
Volunteer Historian

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson (Jennifer Reese)

Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton (Jennifer Reese)

Thomas Jefferson, the nation's first Secretary of State, and Alexander Hamilton, its first Secretary of the Treasury, had strong opposing views on which social/economic groups could best guarantee the future of the new nation.

Jefferson, a Virginia landowner, wanted self-sufficient family farmers as the base from which to build the new nation. He assumed they would produce enough to feed and clothe themselves, and sell the surplus to buy other necessities. Because they were landowners, Jefferson also assumed they would take an interest in public affairs. Their rural lives would allow them to study public issues and officials, unswayed by the commercial, industrial, or financial preoccupations of cities.

Jefferson wanted the government to sell public lands to small farmers in tracts that would provide the self-sufficiency he envisioned. In short, Jefferson's public lands strategy was to retail small tracts at cut rate.

Hamilton, a New York lawyer, cast his lot with, in his words, "the rich, the able, and the well-born," who could organize and finance commercial and industrial enterprises. Hamilton's plan was more complicated. He saw public lands as a way to back the government bonds sold to merchants, bankers, and others. He favored auctioning public lands in large blocks to promote maximum revenue with low overhead. By investing in land, "the rich, the able, and the well-born" helped guarantee revenue that would return their capital with annual interest.

Hamilton's strategy, then, was to sell public lands at wholesale and bind the merchants and bankers to the new nation. Hamilton's view prevailed in the Public Land Act of 1796. Hamilton's plan required small farmers to buy their farms from those who had the money to respond to his strategy. Small farmers did not stand still for such treatment. Their aggravation brought on the Land Act of 1800, which authorized local land offices, reduced the minimum size for purchase and extended credit. In 1820 credit was abolished, but the minimum price was lowered. The ultimate in the retail policy was the Homestead Act of 1862. Under it, at no cash costs other than fees, settlers could buy 160-acre, self-sufficient farms with their time and labor.

Jefferson's views quickly supplanted Hamilton's. Nevertheless Hamilton has prevailed over all with national and international markets placing a premium on one-crop farming—the antithesis of self-sufficient farming. Such commercial agriculture gives great economic rewards. It also takes them away. Jefferson's influence is present in federal agricultural policy to mitigate wide market swings and natural disasters such as drought.

Another notable feature of the Land Law of 1796 was the retention of the rectangular survey system established by the Land Ordinance of 1785. As before, public lands were to be surveyed before sale. Surveys were to be contracted to independent surveyors who would follow the direction of a surveyor general. In executing township surveys, they were to note "all mines, salt licks, salt springs, and mill-seats...all water-courses...and also the quality of the lands" in their notebooks, so that purchasers could be informed about the character of the lands being offered.

Survey System

Township configuration under the Land Law of 1796

Township configuration under the Land Ordinance of 1785

The sale of public lands came 2 years later. The results, as with the earlier Land Ordinance, were disappointing. At auctions held in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, less than 50,000 acres sold. Congress reacted to the poor showing by amending the Land Law of 1796.

The Land Law of 1800 embodied many provisions advocated by frontier interests. Tracts offered for sale were reduced to half sections (320 acres) and purchasers were given 4 years to pay the amount bid, with an 8 percent discount if the entire amount was paid at the time of auction. Another important feature of the act was the establishment of land offices in Cincinnati, Chillicothe, Marietta, and Steubenville. The offices were near the lands being sold and gave westerners an opportunity to bid on the offered lands.

Land Law of

The local land office became an important center of activity on the frontier. Here, people made entry for the public lands. Administering the offices were a register and receiver, appointed and removed at the discretion of the President. The register entered the land applications in the record books and on the survey plats of the office. The receiver handled all payments and receipts. These actions were supervised by the Secretary of the Treasury in Washington. Land offices were moved or closed as the public lands within their jurisdictions dwindled or as new public lands were being surveyed and opened to entry. More than 360 district land offices were ultimately established.

Local Land
Office System

The Land Law of 1800 stimulated a sharp increase in land sales. By the close of 1802, more than 750,000 acres had been sold. Further stimulation came with the Land Law of 1804, which extended credit payments and reduced the size of tracts offered for auction from 320 to 160 acres.

Land Law of

Congress also opened the public lands south of Tennessee to sale. The Land Law of 1803 ordered the region surveyed under the rectangular system and sold in the manner set forth by the Land Law of 1800. Hundreds of thousands of acres in the South were soon put on the market and sold.

Public Lands
in the South

To handle the rapidly growing public land business, Congress created the General Land Office (GLO) in 1812. Headed by a commissioner, the GLO was given the responsibility to "superintend, execute, and perform all such acts and things touching or respecting the public lands of the United States." Previously, public land sales had been handled directly by the Secretary of the Treasury, while the Department of War had administered military land warrants and the State Department, land patents. The General Land Office was placed within the Treasury Department until 1849, when it was transferred to the new Department of the Interior.

Duties and
Edward Tiffin (BLM)

Responsibility for organizing the GLO went to Edward Tiffin, its first commissioner. Tiffin, a physician, former U.S. Senator, and farmer, set about the task without delay. With a chief clerk and staff of eight, Tiffin consolidated the land records spread throughout Washington and began the daily business of processing land entries.

First GLO

Public land sales declined with the outbreak of war with Great Britain in 1812. After the war, however, there was an unprecedented rush for public lands. Land cessions by the Indians defeated during the War of 1812 opened the trans-Appalachian region to farmers and speculators, but the main catalyst for the coming boom was the rise in agricultural prices. The GLO auctioned off 1.5 million acres of public land in 1815; within 4 years, 5.5 million acres had been sold. Competition for land was intense. In some parts of the South, prime cotton land sold for as much as $78 an acre.

Land Rush

by Jerry A. O'Callaghan
Volunteer Historian

Editor's Note: Jerry O'Callaghan, a 21-year veteran of BLM, has been a volunteer historian for the Bureau since retiring in 1982 as Assistant Director of Lands and Minerals.

The Commissionership of the General Land Office has been one of the nation's most prestigious and sought-after posts. When Abraham Lincoln's strong bid in 1849 failed, he was so disappointed that he took a long leave from politics.

Thirty-four Commissioners of the General Land Office presided over the distribution of one billion plus acres of public lands—roughly half of the United States' total land area. The distribution is possibly the largest and most beneficent real estate deal in history, giving the language an idiom, "doing a land office business," for a high volume of retail trade.

The General Land Office was created in 1812 to relieve the Secretary of the Treasury from having to oversee directly the local land offices. It was a quasi-judicial, ministerial office centralized in Washington, and became part of the newly formed Department of the Interior in 1849.

Edward Tiffin, the first commissioner, combined a long public career with the practice of medicine. When the British burned Washington's federal buildings in 1814, Tiffin arranged for the removal of the land records to safety across the Potomac River.

So he could return to Ohio, Tiffin arranged a trade with Josiah Meigs, the Surveyor-General, with Tiffin himself becoming Surveyor-General stationed in Cincinnati. Incidentally, Tiffin has been considered a superb Surveyor-General, a position closely related and equally important to that of the Commissioner of the General Land Office to which it later became subordinate.

No commissioner became President, but John McLean became an Associate Justice of the United States and was often talked about as a presidential candidate. Thomas A. Hendricks, after his commissionership, served in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. He was able to serve only nine months of his term as Vice President before his death.

Although he served as commissioner a short time, James Shields must have been very persuasive. He went on to become a senator from Minnesota, California, and Missouri.

William Sparks was an aggressively forthright commissioner. His efforts to redress what the public saw as preferential treatment of the land grant railroads, syndicates and speculators, to the disadvantage of actual settlers, aroused congressional and press ire. Three of his annual reports in the mid-1880s were cogent arguments for public land reform. Both L.C.Q. Lamar, Secretary of the Interior, and President Cleveland backed him, but Sparks resigned before his term was over in a difference with Lamar on a railroad case.

Many commissioners had been state governors. The last, Fred Johnson, was also, briefly, the Bureau of Land Management's first director.

Then came panic.

America's economy collapsed in 1819. Cotton and other agricultural prices plummeted and banks failed. The economic depression threatened the financial stability of the United States. During the land rush, speculators had taken advantage of the federal government's liberal payment terms; at the time of the collapse, nearly $23 million was still owed to the Treasury.

Congress quickly abandoned the credit system. The Land Law of 1820 discontinued the sale of lands on credit. Full payment for land had to be made at the time of purchase. However, buyers could now purchase land for as little as $1.25 an acre and the size of tracts could be as small as 80 acres. The buyers could still purchase public lands in unlimited quantities and lands not sold at auction were subject to private entry at the minimum price.

Land Law of

Land speculation did not end with the Land Law of 1820. Although sales declined with the panic of 1819, they increased steadily during the 1820s. A big jump in land sales came in 1835 when the acreage sold climbed to 12.5 million acres from the previous year's 4.6 million acres. In 1836, more than 20 million acres were sold. This surge in sales resulted from an improved economy, an expanded road and canal system in the West, available money, and the opening of new lands west of the Mississippi River created by the federal government's removal of trans-Appalachian Indian tribes.

Land Sales in

The federal government was "doing a land-office business" and the increased sales enabled it to pay off the national debt. The rampant speculation, however, was being financed by state bank-issued currency of uncertain value. This fact forced President Andrew Jackson to issue the Specie Circular of 1836 requiring all payments for public land to be made in gold and silver coin. This action brought an end to the land sale boom and sales once again declined.


The General Land Office was concerned with more than land sales during these years. There were also military land warrants and private land claims.

At the outbreak of the Revolution, the Continental Congress and states offered land bounties to recruits who joined the army and navy. The federal government offered the same incentives used to raise an army for the War of 1812. Giving land for military service was a time-honored practice. Historian Paul Gates points out that the practice recognized "that land was not always easy to obtain, was much in demand, and that a land bounty might prove more attractive than anything else the government could promise."

Military Land

The amount of land offered to soldiers varied according to rank. Privates in the Continental Army during the Revolution received 100 acres, whereas major generals got 1,100 acres.

The call for Virginia and the other land-states to relinquish their claims to the region west of the Appalachian Mountains was partly spurred by the need to provide land to soldiers and sailors. The Land Ordinance of 1785 provided that one-seventh of the townships surveyed in the first seven ranges be set aside for the location of military land warrants. Congress later established a military district in Ohio for the location of these warrants. Other military bounty land reserves were established in Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas after the War of 1812. In 1842, Congress began permitting veterans to select public lands outside the military districts.

The policy of giving land bounties for military service continued until the Civil War. War veterans were then given the privilege of deducting all or part of their military service from the period of residence and cultivation required under the Homestead Act.

Private land claims were another concern for the General Land Office. With each addition to the public domain, the United States recognized land titles granted by previous sovereigns. This required verifying claims and issuing patents to confirm titles.

Private Land

Adjudication of private land claims was difficult. Claims often conflicted and rights of ownership complicated by missing documents. Fraudulent title papers were another problem. Sorting out the titles required lengthy hearings to determine the legitimacy of the claims.

The first claims came with the acquisition of the trans-Appalachian frontier. With the purchase of Louisiana from France the GLO was swamped with private claims given by both the French and the Spanish. Thousands of claims were presented, most for lands in Missouri and Louisiana. To expedite adjudication, Congress established land commission boards, but the poor documentation for most title claims slowed their confirmation. Several thousand claims remained outstanding for more than 50 years.


The federal government's policy of auctioning public lands had always placed frontier settlers at a disadvantage compared with monied capitalists and speculators. Frontier farmers found money hard to come by, forcing many to build a home, clear land, and eke out what income they could on unsurveyed public lands.


The policy of orderly settlement, however, sought to dissuade such squatting activity. The Confederation used troops to remove trespassers who had settled north of the Ohio River. The federal government used the same tactic, and an 1807 law provided for the removal, imprisonment, and fining of trespassers. These efforts, however, did little to deter the squatters.


As surveys and sales progressed westward, squatter communities formed "claim associations" to protect their interests and regulate how lands were claimed and recorded. They also protected members from "claim jumpers" and worked to intimidate anyone who dared bid against a member's claim at auction.

Claim Clubs

The government did, though reluctantly at first, provide some of these settlers with relief by extending the privilege of preemption. Preemption was the preferential right of an individual to purchase, at the minimum price, public lands that he or she had improved. The preemption concept had been used in southern colonies prior to the Revolution, but the Confederation and federal government initially rejected the practice in favor of selling lands for revenue.


Frontier interests did not let the idea of preemption lapse. Congress received petition after petition asking that the privilege be allowed. In 1799, Congress gave Ohio settlers, who had been duped by a speculator, the right to preempt the lands they had settled. Limited rights of preemption were then granted to settlers in Indiana, Illinois, Alabama, Mississippi, and other public land states and territories. The first general grant of preemption came in 1830 but applied only to those who had settled on public lands prior to the law. The grant allowed claimants to enter 160 acres at the minimum price as long as the right was exercised prior to the auction of a tract and within 1 year of the law's passage. The law was extended temporarily several times until 1841 when Congress passed a permanent preemption measure.


The Preemption Law of 1841 allowed "every person, being the head of a family, or widow, or single man over the age of twenty-one years," and who was a citizen or declared his or her intent to become a citizen, the one time privilege of entering up to 160 acres of surveyed public land at the minimum price per acre. The claimant, or entryperson, had to reside on the tract entered and to have cultivated the land. Public lands occupied as towns or places of trade, containing known mines, or those reserved by the government, could not be entered.


This Preemption Law, in the words of historian Roy Robbins, was a "frontier triumph." Congress had come to recognize the plight of frontier farmers and had decided that allowing settlement of the public domain was as important a consideration as the raising of revenue. The new law allowed tens-of-thousands of farmers to obtain title to the lands they had worked so hard at improving.


The rapid westward movement of the frontier bypassed scattered tracts of public land. These were the less desirable lands—rough and broken in character, often with inferior soils. Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, a champion of frontier interests, pointed out as early as 1824 that these "worthless" lands sold at the same minimum price per acre as the best public lands—$1.25. The Senator argued for years that these less desirable lands would sell only if the price was reduced, and that reducing the price would actually increase revenue to the government. Benton also wanted the lands sold to the actual settlers rather than monied interests and speculators.


In 1854, Congress adopted Senator Benton's proposal. The Graduation Law provided that the less desirable lands open to private entry for (a) more than 10 years be offered for $1 an acre; (b) more than 15 years, 75 cents an acre; (c) 20 or more years, 50 cents; (d) more than 25 years, 25 cents; and (e) over 30 years, 12-1/2 cents. Buyers had to live on or own a farm adjacent to the parcel purchased, and no more than 320 acres could be bought by any one individual.

Law of 1854

The effects of the law were immediate. Public land sales in 1854 exceeded 7 million acres, a 700 percent increase over the previous year. The figure more than doubled in 1855. Unfortunately, speculators were again the beneficiaries through the use of fraudulent entries, forcing Congress to repeal the law in 1862.

Law Sales

The Graduation and Preemption Laws helped placate frontier demands for land but what pioneer farmers really wanted was "free land." They argued that free land was their due. They transformed the public lands from wilderness to farmlands. They were the bulwark against Indian hostilities. And upon their efforts rested the country's economic, political, and social strength.

Demand for
Free Land

Congress had on occasion offered free land in regions the nation wanted settled. The Armed Occupation Law of 1842 offered 160 acres of land to each person willing to fight the Indian insurgence in Florida and occupy and cultivate the land for 5 years. Between 1850 and 1853, Congress offered 320 acres to single men and 640 acres to couples who had settled in the Oregon Country or who migrated there. A similar, but less generous proposition was extended in 1854 to include the New Mexico Territory.

Early Land

Debate over a free land or homestead law began in the 1840s. Frontier advocates of the homestead principle were joined by eastern labor reformers who envisioned free land as a means by which industrial workers could escape low wages, job insecurity, and deplorable working conditions. Against the proposal were industrialists from the Northeast who feared a homestead law would empty cities of workers and weaken their domination over labor. The South also worried. The delicate political balance between the slave and free states in the Senate could be undermined by opening the undeveloped territories to small, independent farmers opposed to slavery.


Despite opposition, support for the idea of homesteads increased over time. In 1860, Congress finally passed a compromise measure whereby settlers could purchase 160 acres at 25 cents an acre if they resided on and cultivated their tracts for 5 years. President James Buchanan, however, vetoed the legislation, stating that the law would reduce public land revenues and undermine the present land system. Furthermore, Buchanan thought the law was unconstitutional.

Law Vetoed


The men employed by the General Land Office to survey the public lands in the 1800s were often on the cutting edge of the frontier. In the wilderness these deputy surveyors and their crews faced myriad dangers and many lost their lives. Indian problems were one hazard often encountered by survey crews and in 1859 two surveyors wrote the following about their near brush with death.

The Surveyor General of New Mexico granted this request. (National Archives, Denver Branch)

The Republican Party's 1860 presidential platform called for passage of a homestead measure. With Abraham Lincoln's election and the South's secession from the Union, Republicans made good on their promise. Under the Homestead Act of May 20, 1862, heads of households, widows, and single persons over 21 years old could apply for 160 acres subject to entry under the Preemption Law. Patent for the land would be issued after 5 years of residence and cultivation or, if applicants so chose, they could commute their claim before the end of 5 years to a cash entry, paying the minimum price per acre.

Abraham Lincoln (Jennifer Reese)

The Homestead Law was seen as a great democratic measure by its supporters. The law, however, was but a promise; not all could take advantage of it. The Homestead Law offered free land but building of a home and breaking soil for crops took capital. The environment also worked to defeat the dreams of many. Of the more than 1.3 million homestead entries filed before 1900, only about half would go to patent.

Vision and

Homesteading in Nebraska in 1887 (Denver Public Library Western History Collection)


Congress also turned its attention to townsites on public lands. As early as 1824, counties were allowed to preempt a quarter section (160 acres) of land for county seats. In 1844 towns founded on the public lands were allowed to preempt up to 320 acres, and in 1864 and 1867 Congress enacted new provisions that permitted towns to take title to even larger areas. Most communities established on the public lands did not take advantage of the townsite laws, but cities such as Denver, Boise, and Carson City did.


The discovery of gold in California in 1848 caught the United States without a general mineral land policy, and Congress took no immediate steps to institute one. Miners, who quickly spread their search for precious metals across the Pacific Coast and Rocky Mountains, were forced to develop their own laws and regulations. Prospectors organized mining districts and devised rules as to how claims were staked and "title" was held. These rules were then enforced by miner courts.

Gold Rush

The government did have experience in dealing with mineral lands. The Confederation had reserved a one-third interest in all gold, silver, lead, and other minerals in the Land Ordinance of 1785. The federal government initially ignored the issue, only reserving saline lands. But in 1807 it chose to reserve and lease public lands valuable for lead in the Indiana Territory. The policy was extended to Missouri and the Great Lakes region by 1816. The War Department, because of the importance of lead in making rifle shot, administered the leasing program, but found it could not cope with miners' resistance to government oversight.

Early Mineral

The leasing of lead deposits in Missouri ended in 1829. In 1845, President James Polk told Congress that the "system of managing the mineral lands of the United States is believed to be radically defective," costing the government more to administer than the royalties it received. Congress agreed, and from 1846 to 1850, the lease policy was abandoned in favor of the disposal of lead, copper, and iron deposits in the Great Lakes region by preemption and sale.

Congress, however, avoided the mineral question in the West. Presidents, Secretaries of the Interior, and General Land Office Commissioners repeatedly asked for enactment of a policy—be it lease, preemption, or sale—but Congress remained silent until 1866.

The first mining law was introduced by Senator William Stewart of Nevada. As enacted, the Mining Law of 1866 declared that "mineral lands of the public domain...be free and open to exploration and occupation," and deal with the patenting of lodes—claims containing gold, silver, or other precious metals occurring in veins. Lode claims were subject to the customs and rules of local mining districts, as long as they did not conflict with federal law. The law also provided for the patenting of lode claims on which at least $1,000 in actual labor and improvements had been completed. The length of a claim could not exceed 200 feet and the miners could follow the "dips, angles, and variations" of their lodes into adjacent property. Metes-and-bounds surveys of the claims were to be made under the direction of the Surveyor General, and the cost of patenting a claim was $5 an acre.

Lode Mining
Law of 1866

In 1870, Congress passed a second mining statute, this one pertaining to placer claims. The act defined placers as "all forms of deposit, excepting, veins of quartz, or other rock in place." Claims could be as little as 10 acres but no one person or association of persons could have a single claim for more than a quarter section. Claims had to conform with the legal subdivisions of the surveyed townships, but metes-and-bounds surveys were allowed in unsurveyed areas. The cost of patenting a placer claim was set at $2.50 an acre.

Mining Law
of 1870


by William Condit
Mining Law and Salable Minerals, Washington Office

William M. Stewart (Jennifer Reese)

William Morris Stewart was the chief protagonist in debates to secure passage of laws that recognized the governance system miners had established by organizing into mining districts in the remote and largely lawless West.

Born in upstate New York in 1827, Stewart turned to study law in 1849 and went off to Yale to pursue a degree. He quit school the next year to join the rush to the California gold camps. There he engaged in gold mining, but with little success. Stewart again turned to study law and was admitted to the California bar in 1852. Two years later he became Attorney General of California.

In 1860, news of the fabulous silver discoveries on the Comstock Lode drew him to Virginia City in the Nevada Territory. For the next several years Stewart represented mining interests in fierce litigation battles over possessory rights to portions of the Comstock Lode. By all accounts he was domineering in the courtroom, a trait that served him well later in life. (Stewart allegedly waved a gun while interrogating a witness of "questionable veracity"!)

Based on his accomplishments in territorial politics, Stewart was elected to serve as one of Nevada's first U.S. senators. Stewart proved an eloquent "apologist" for lode and placer miners occupying the public lands in technical trespass. Since no federal statute authorized the settlement and mining of mineral lands, he championed their system of self-governance. He believed "free mining" by U.S. citizens should be encouraged by enactment of a law granting patents to the discoverers of mineral wealth who diligently worked their deposits under the rules of their mining districts.

After the Senate was persuaded, only the powerful chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, George Julian of Ohio, stood between Stewart and passage of a lode law. Julian could bottle up the bill in committee indefinitely. Stewart out-maneuvered his foe by substituting his lode bill for one that had already passed the House, dealing with rights-of-way for ditch and canal owners on public land. Upon Senate passage, it was sent back to the House where Julian was unsuccessful in having the bill referred to his committee. On July 28, 1866, the full House of Representatives passed Stewart's bill by a vote of 77 to 34, a remarkable margin considering that most seats were held by eastern congressmen who were expected to support legislation that produced federal revenues from the public land.

In 1870, Stewart sought to persuade Congress that placer miners on the public lands needed similar legislative recognition of their possessory rights and an opportunity to patent their claims. Julian continued to protest "free mining" policies but to no avail; Congress went with Stewart's views again. On May 10, 1872, Congress merged the lode and placer statutes and made technical amendments, such as granting defined preemptive rights to lode claimants for the discovered lode and the area of land flanking the lode.

Congress restated its mining policy in 1872 with the passage of the General Mining Law. This law declared that "valuable" mineral deposits rather than simply "mineral deposits" as stated in the Lode Mining Law of 1866, were to be "free and open to exploration and purchase." Local mining customs were still recognized. Lode locations, however, could be no more than 1,500 feet long and 600 feet wide. Furthermore, individual claimants were limited to 20 acres, while associations or groups could still have 160-acre claims. To protect their claims from others, claimants had to perform $100 of assessment work yearly and show at least $500 worth of improvements before the claims could be patented. Milling or processing sites could be entered on nonmineral lands but could not exceed 5 acres. Survey requirements and the per-acre cost of patenting a claim remained the same as before.

Mining Law
of 1872

Placer Mining at Cripple Creek, Colorado in 1893 (State Historical Society of Colorado)

The enactment of the mining laws transformed miners from trespassers into legitimate occupants of the public lands. Valid claims were given a status akin to private property. More important, the development of minerals on the public lands was given priority over other possible land uses.

In 1873 Congress provided for the sale of public lands valuable for coal deposits. The law replaced an 1864 statute that offered coal lands at auction for no less than $20 an acre and an 1865 law that permitted miners who had developed coal deposits prior to enactment to preempt their mines. Neither law had been effective. The new statute was intended as a remedy, providing for the location, development, and preemption of 160 acres to individuals and up to 640 acres to associations that had spent at least $5,000 in development. The minimum price was set at $20 an acre if the claim was within 15 miles of a railroad and at least $10 an acre, if further out.

Coal Lands
Law of 1873

After the Civil War, Congress began funding scientific and geologic explorations of the West to further encourage mineral development of public lands. Ferdinand Hayden, Clarence King, Lieutenant George Wheeler, and John Wesley Powell conducted expeditions over large areas of the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, and Great Basin, mapping the terrain and describing the resources. In 1879, Congress consolidated these independent efforts into one organization, the U.S. Geological Survey.


The Geological Survey was responsible for "the classification of the public lands and examination of the Geological Structure, mineral resources and products of the national domain." Under its first Director, Clarence King, and his successor, John Wesley Powell, the Geological Survey established itself as a competent, scientific organization. Its studies became highly valued by private industry and the General Land Office came to depend on its geologic and hydrographic knowledge.


Congress shared the bounty of the public domain with more than miners and settlers. Soon after passage of the Homestead Act, it provided immense grants of lands to the states and railroad corporations.

The Morrill Act of 1862 provided each state within the Union 30,000 acres of public land for each senator and representative to finance agricultural and mechanical arts colleges. States with public lands chose the acreage from the public lands within their boundaries. States having no public land, or little remaining acreage, were given scrip. Scrip, which was issued in 160-acre increments and sold to private parties by the states, could be used to locate and pay for any nonmineral public lands open to sale or private entry. From this grant, schools such as Cornell and Illinois State University were established.

Public Lands
for Colleges

By providing lands to the states for the establishment of agricultural colleges, Congress was simply continuing its tradition of granting public lands for schools. The Confederation, in the Land Ordinance of 1785, had reserved Section 16 in each township to finance public education in the Ohio Country. The federal government reinstituted this practice when it admitted Ohio into the Union in 1802. The practice was continued with other states, partly to placate them for having to disclaim any right, title, or interest to the public lands within their boundaries. After 1848, states received two sections of land from each township, which increased to four sections with the admission of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Early Grants
in Aid of

Congress also provided public lands to the states to finance institutions such as schools for the deaf and blind, and prisons. Most important to the economic development of the public land states were the grants for internal improvements. Under the land grants, roads and canals could be built and waterways improved. In 1841, Congress granted each of the public land states 500,000 acres of land for such purposes. Congress also gave lands classified as swamp and overflow to various states prior to the Civil War.


The day before President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, he approved a law granting lands to aid the construction of the first transcontinental railroad. Congress gave the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroad companies "every alternate section of public land, designated by odd numbers, to the amount of five alternate sections per mile on each side of said railroad, on the line thereof, and within the limits of ten miles on each side of said road." In 1864, the grant was increased to 20 alternate sections for each mile of track. Lands reserved by the United States, to which a preemption or homestead claim had been attached at the time the railroad's route was fixed, were excluded, as were all mineral lands except those known to be chiefly valuable for iron or coal.

Land Grants

Before the Central Pacific and Union Pacific grant, Congress had given public lands to the states to encourage railroad construction. The practice began in 1850 with the Illinois grant for the Illinois Central Railroad and extended to other states in the Midwest and South in the decade that followed. But with few states between the Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean, and a vast territory to be crossed, a new policy for granting lands directly to railroad corporations became necessary.

Land Grants

Limits of the railroad land grants

The Central Pacific and Union Pacific grant was followed by others. The largest went to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, which built a line from Lake Superior to Puget Sound. Northern Pacific received 20 odd numbered sections for each mile of right-of-way across states and 40 odd numbered sections for each mile across the territories. The massive grant, if it had been entirely fulfilled, would have provided 47 million acres of public land to the company, more than twice the acreage provided for the first transcontinental route. From 1862 to 1871, Congress granted nearly 128 million acres to corporations for the construction of railroads.

Land Grant

These multimillion-acre "checkerboard" empires came under criticism in the late 1860s. Many westerners raised the cry of monopoly as railroads failed to bring their lands to market; the people demanded that the public lands be reserved for actual settlers. They called for an end to the grants and for the forfeiture of unearned and unsold land grants. Congress responded at first by placing "homestead clauses" on any railroad land grant legislation that required companies to sell their grants in quarter-section tracts for $2.50 an acre to actual settlers. After 1871, Congress refused all further railroad land grants. Legislation on forfeiture came years later, but few land grants were revoked as a result.

End of
Land Grant

Selected Railroad Land Grants as of 1941
Central Pacific11,199,560
Union Pacific19,156,460
Santa Fe Pacific (Atlantic & Pacific)11,595,341
Northern Pacific39,064,567
Southern Pacific7,907,966
Oregon and California2,777,632


As if settlers did not already have enough competition for public lands, Congress continued to auction lands after passage of the Homestead Act. Congress ordered millions of acres to market in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas, California, and other states and territories. Good agricultural lands were offered at many of these auctions. But, after 1870, Congress was reluctant to put any more public lands up for auction.

Land Sales

The Congressional reluctance to sell public lands coincided with an effort to expand settlement opportunities. By the Timber Culture Law of 1873, 160 acres could be entered by anyone interested in planting and growing trees on land naturally devoid of timber. The Timber Culture Law responded to the common belief that trees would bring rain to the semiarid West. Forty acres had to be planted in trees, with the trees set no farther than 12 feet apart. No residence was required and patent would pass if the trees had been kept in "healthy, growing condition for ten years." Amendments to the law in 1874 and 1878 reduced the acreage planted to 10 acres and permitted patenting within 8 years.

Culture Law
of 1873

The Desert Land Law was passed in 1877. It applied to public lands "exclusive of timber lands and mineral lands which will not, without irrigation, produce some agricultural crop." Entry could be made for a full section (640 acres), at a cost of $1.25 per acre, and patents if irrigation was accomplished within 3 years. The law applied only to the States of California, Oregon, and Nevada, and to the Territories of Washington, Idaho, Utah, Dakota, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The State of Colorado was included in 1891. Like the Timber Culture Law, no residence was required.

Desert Land
Law of 1877

Congress had enacted the Timber Culture and Desert Land Laws to give settlers flexibility. Both laws recognized that the public lands west of the 100th Meridian were semiarid in character and that settlers needed more land than east of the meridian for successful farming operations to be established. The laws allowed settlers to acquire up to 1,120 acres when used in conjunction with the Preemption and Homestead Laws.

Culture and
Desert Land
Law in

Proving up—successfully patenting lands—under the Timber Culture and Desert Land Laws, however, was difficult. The Timber Culture Law, after its amendment in 1878, required claimants who had entered 160 acres to have 6,750 trees in "living (and) thrifty" condition at the end of 8 years. In the semiarid West this was difficult to achieve, and only 65,000 of the 260,000 entries filed under the law were patented under the tree planting provisions of the law.

Success under the Desert Land Law was little better. Construction of irrigation works was expensive and most settlers found they could not comply with the requirements of the law. Many settlers responded to the situation by resorting to fraudulent methods of proving up on their claims.

Fraud was also used with the Timber Culture and other laws. The situation became so bad that much of the work in the General Land Office became more and more concerned with the detection and prosecution of fraudulent claims.


Fraud, as stated previously, had been a problem since the creation of the public domain. By the 1870s, evidence of the illegal appropriation of the public lands and resources became pronounced. In 1879, Congress created the first Public Lands Commission to look into how the land laws might be revised but then paid little attention to the recommendations.

First Public

In his annual report for 1882, Commissioner of the General Land Office Noah McFarland noted that investigations by his bureau had found "that great quantities of valuable coal and iron lands, forests of timber, and the available agricultural lands in whole regions of grazing country have been monopolized." Mineral, livestock, and timber companies had people make entries under the Preemption and Homestead Laws and then purchased the claims after patenting requirements had been met so they could amass large landholdings. The Timber Culture Law was used by speculators to secure interests in lands they knew later settlers would buy. Stockraisers used the Desert Land Law to control access to streams and rivers. They also fenced public lands to exclude other ranchers and settlers from rangelands they used. In Colorado alone, 3 million acres were fenced.

and Land

By Andrew Senti
Realty Specialist, Colorado State Office

Editor's Note: The United States has, with each acquisition of the public domain, recognized land titles granted by the previous sovereign. Of the thousands of private land claims and grants patented, those in New Mexico and California were the largest and among the most complicated to adjudicate.

The Beaubien-Miranda grant (within present Colorado and New Mexico) had its origin in a brief period when the territory was under Mexican rule. On January 8, 1841, a fur trader of French-Canadian ancestry named Carlos Beaubien and Guadalupe Miranda, a Mexican citizen, filed a petition with the Civil and Military Governor of New Mexico asking for a grant of land that they promised to settle and develop. The grant given to Beaubien and Miranda was the largest of several large private land grants approved by Mexican officials in 1843-1844.

The grant consisted of a 1,714,765-acre tract of land in the County of Taos. Its boundaries were described by a metes-and-bounds description that used natural boundaries — streams, mountain ranges, etc. A portion of the grant's boundary description went as follows: "commencing below the junction of the Rayado and Red Rivers from thence in a direct line to the east to the first hills from thence following the course of the Red River in a northerly direction to the junction of Una de Gato with Red River."

The grant to Beaubien and Miranda far exceeded the 11 square leagues (44,800 acres) allowed under Mexican law. In historical perspective, these large, rather hastily processed grants appear to have been an attempt to foster occupancy along the vulnerable northern and eastern boundaries of the Mexican Territory and encourage settlement and at least agricultural development.

Beaubian sold his half of the grant in 1858 to Lucian B. Maxwell, an American who had married Beaubian's daughter in 1842. It thereafter became commonly known as the Maxwell Grant.

By the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, the United States acquired New Mexico and pledged to recognize the land grants made by the Mexican government. The General Land Office recommended patenting of the Maxwell Grant in 1857. Congress confirmed the grant on June 21, 1860. but conflicting claims of interest in the grant by others, delayed final confirmation of the grant by the U.S. Supreme Court until 1887.

Perhaps some of the ordeal of confirming the Maxwell and other land grants can be attributed to centuries-old Spanish philosophy toward land tenure that clashed with Anglo-American attitudes. Anglo-American thought leaned toward economic aspects, while Spanish social and political thought valued land as a territorial dimension of society. Anglo-Americans found this difficult to understand.


Annual Report of the Commissioners of the General Land Office, 1885

William A. J. Sparks
William A. J. Sparks (Jennifer Reese)

At the onset of my administration I was confronted with overwhelming evidences that the public domain was being made the prey of unscrupulous speculation and the worst forms of land monopoly through systematic frauds carried on and consummated under the public land laws.

In many sections of the country, notably throughout regions dominated by cattle raising interests...entries were chiefly fictitious and fraudulent and made in bulk through concerted methods adopted by organizations that had parceled out the country among themselves and inclosures defended by armed riders and protected against immigration and settlement by systems of espionage and intimidation.

In other cases...individual speculation, following the progress of public surveys, was covering townships of agricultural land with entries made for the purpose of selling the claims to others, or by entries procured for the acquisition of lands in large bodies. Again, in timbered regions, the forests were being appropriated by domestic and foreign corporations through suborned entries made in fraud and evasion of law. Newly-discovered coal-fields were being seized and possessed in like manner.

The question of my own duty, as the administrative officer immediately charged under the law with seeing that the public lands were disposed of only according to law, was at once forced upon me. Should I continue to certify and request the issue of patents by the President indiscriminately upon entries which there was every reasonable ground to believe were fraudulent...or should I withhold such final action until examinations could be made and the false claims separated from those that were valid? Should I disregard cumulative evidences of the universality of fraudulent appropriation of public lands and become an official instrumentality of their consummation, or should I say: "I mean to know what I am doing before I ask the President of the United States to sign any more land patents?"

As a measure...of indispensable precaution I notified the several divisions...that final action should be suspended upon entries made in states and territories in which the greater degree of fraud had been developed, and where the larger disposable area of public lands remained.

This notification, or order, was not expected to be acceptable to those whose purposes it is falsely and fraudulently to acquire title to public lands, nor to those whose profitable vocation was to promote the speedy obtainment of patents for compensation for fee. It was a public measure in the public interest...intended to check...conspiracies against the government.

I have caused lists of suspended entries to be placed in the hands of special agents for examination and report, and am convinced that it is not safe to issue patents or pre-emption, commuted homestead, and other entries in which fraud most largely prevails without such examination.

McFarland established a corps of agents to investigate illegal entries and fencing. The new agents joined others already assigned to investigating illegal timber cutting. These agents, however, were few; a single investigator was often responsible for an entire state or territory, limiting what could be accomplished. To help, the Commissioner called for the repeal of the Preemption and Timber Culture and the other land laws being fraudulently used. He also called for enactment of an anti-fencing statute, the only request Congress acted on.

McFarland's successor, William A. J. Sparks, continued the fight against fraud. Sparks saw illegality everywhere. To combat it, he suspended all pending patent applications under the various land laws and began reinterpreting the land laws and their requirements to prevent their misuse.

Sparks and
Land Fraud

The new Commissioner was joined in his crusade against fraud. His New Mexico Surveyor General, George Julian, also railed against illegal practices. Julian was particularly concerned about private land grant claims made by Spain and Mexico. Charged with adjudicating these claims, the Surveyor General of New Mexico found many of the claims to be forgeries or excessive in the lands they included.

The zeal of Sparks and his lieutenants brought protests. The Cheyenne Sun in 1887 derided the Commissioner by declaring that the West "shalt have no other god than William Andrew Jackson Sparks, and none other shalt thou worship." Such protests became too much for President Grover Cleveland and he eventually had to ask for Sparks' resignation.

The efforts of McFarland and Sparks had a telling effect on fraud. While not eliminating it, they reduced fraudulent activity on the public lands. The two commissioners also clearly brought the problem to the attention of Congress. Public land law reform was needed, and Congress, always slow to react on land matters, did eventually react. In 1890, individuals were restricted from acquiring more than 320 acres of public land. Under the General Public Lands Reform Act of 1891, Congress stopped auctioning public lands under the Land Law of 1820, repealed the Timber Culture and Preemption acts (though not without some saving clauses), and reduced Desert Land entries to 320 acres.

Public Land
Law Reform

by Anthony Rice
From OUR PUBLIC LANDS (Summer 1976)

Editor's Note: In 1889 the opening of Indian lands in Oklahoma Territory to homesteaders began. Early openings provided opportunities for settlers to race for homestead tracts. The last "rush" came with the opening of the 6,500,000-acre "Cherokee Strip" in 1893. Among the 45 clerks hired by the General Land Office to handle homestead applications was Anthony Rice, who wrote the following account of his experience of the Cherokee Strip.

It was a "Public Land Opening," in its wildest sense. I will attempt to describe it as I saw [it] and as it in reality was.

In order to prevent parties who had no rights under the homestead laws from entering the land and thereby defeat the chances of those who were entitled thereto, the "booth" or registration system was adopted. Accordingly, nine booths were established, five of which were on the northern and four on the southern line of the [Cherokee Strip].

The booths were open from September 11 to September 19, 1893, between the hours of 7 A.M. and 6 P.M. Over 115,000 persons registered, while the lands fit for homesteading would provide for only about 20,000.

I registered a blind man and in order to satisfy my curiosity, I inquired of his guardian what possible chance the poor fellow had in this wild scramble and how he proposed to make the race. The guardian replied that he would stand him on the line and as soon as the gun was fired, he would make one jump and plant his flag. I am afraid that this fellow, if he got in front of that crowd, was himself planted, instead of the flag.

The hardships endured were indescribable. Persons slept on the line for two and three days, waiting to be registered....And all this was endured for what? In the bare hope of realizing that which is so characteristic of our present speculative generation — the desire to get "something for nothing."

At high noon on September 16, 1893, the soldiers fired their guns and off started the greatest and most wonderful race of all times. About 150,000 persons went pell mell, helter skelter. Some went on horseback, some in vehicles of every conceivable description, some by train and some on foot.

The trains were loaded. Every inch of the roofs were covered and many hung on the sides of the cars by holding to the window sills, while the open windows furnished room for some.

You have often heard of doing a "Land Office Business." We did it there.



By 1891, the public domain was rapidly diminishing. In 1887, Congress, seeking to satisfy the nation's hunger for land, had adopted a policy of giving individual farms to reservation Indians and opening the remaining Indian lands to settlers. The Great Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Chippewa lands in Minnesota, and the famous "land rush" openings in Oklahoma, were among the many Indian reservations opened to settlers. But the opening of Indian reservations did little to alleviate the increasing demands.

Indian Lands

Questions of how and to whom public lands would be allocated became increasingly divisive; competing interests struggled to gain control of the lands and resources they needed. This was complicated by the federal government's more active role in administering the use of public lands and resources, as the idea of conservation began sweeping the nation.


Early conservation efforts focused on public timberlands. When Americans moved west from the Appalachian Mountains pioneers gave little thought to conserving forests. Forests were an impediment to progress. Trees were everywhere and made the clearing of land for farming difficult.


The federal government disposed of these timberlands like any others. Most forested areas east of the Mississippi River were sold at auction. Agricultural lands with timber could be settled under provision of the Preemption and Homestead Laws. In 1878, Congress passed the Timber and Stone Law providing a quarter-section of land chiefly valuable for timber or stone at the minimum cost of $2.50 an acre. Until 1892, the law applied only to California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington; afterwards it included all the public land states.

Timber and
Stone Law of

Timberlands were quickly disappearing by the late 1800s. Many areas around the Great Lakes had been clear cut and timber production in the South was rapidly increasing. Fear arose that the nation would soon have no more forests and calls for conserving what timberland remained began to be heard.

Famine Scare

The first response to this concern came with passage of the General Public Lands Reform Law of 1891. The last section of the law allowed the President to withdraw and reserve public lands "wholly or in part covered with timber and undergrowth, whether of commercial value or not" from settlement and location. The provision, which had been a last minute amendment to the law and went forward without serious debate, was a radical change from the disposal policies long followed by Congress.

Reserve Law
of 1891

No sooner had the 1891 law been enacted than President Benjamin Harrison created the first "forest reserve" adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. By 1893, 16 more reserves had been created, with nearly 18 million acres of public land set aside. Administration of the forest reserves went to the Department of the Interior and the General Land Office. Congress, however, failed to provide authority to administer use within the forest reserves and Secretary of the Interior Hoke Smith halted the creation of more reserves until Congress did so.

First Forest

After much debate, Congress passed the Forest Management Act of 1897. The law permitted the President to modify, suspend, and revoke the forest withdrawals he made. It also gave the Secretary of the Interior authority to regulate occupancy and use within the reserves, develop mineral resources, provide for fire protection on the reserves, and permit the sale of timber. Further, the law allowed owners of private property within the reserves to exchange their lands for nonmineral, public lands of equal acreage outside the withdrawals.

Act of 1897

Administration of the reserves remained with the GLO, which had a small corps of superintendents, supervisors, and rangers. The GLO was assisted by the Geological Survey, which surveyed and mapped the reserves, and the Department of Agriculture, which provided scientific expertise on grazing and timber management matters.


Theodore Roosevelt became President after the assassination of William McKinley in 1901. A New Yorker born to wealth, Roosevelt had as a young man gone to the Dakota Territory and run a cattle ranch. He had a great love of the outdoors and hunting. Under his leadership, the federal government would mount a crusade for the conservation of public lands and resources.

The central theme of Roosevelt's conservation philosophy, according to Gifford Pinchot, chief architect of the policy and first head of the Forest Service, was to provide "the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time." This called for developing public lands in a manner that promoted the best and highest use of resources, accomplished through scientific and technical efficiency.


Roosevelt's first conservation crusade involved irrigation. Low precipitation mandated irrigation in many parts of the West and Congress' enactment of the Desert Land Law of 1877 had been an admission of this fact. In 1888 Congress, wanting to learn more about irrigation possibilities in the West, ordered the Geological Survey to investigate potential reservoir, ditch, and canal sites on the public lands in the West, only to cancel the effort in frustration over the slowness of the work.


The Carey Land Act of 1894 was then passed to encourage state- and territorial-sponsored irrigation projects on public lands. The states and territories could receive patent to any arid public lands they had irrigated— up to 1 million acres. The projects were to be constructed by private companies, but the lands had to be sold in 160-acre tracts to actual settlers. The effort proved disappointing, as few projects were built.

Carey Land
Act of 1894

To Roosevelt and other conservationists, irrigation was a chance to make "worthless" lands valuable and to increase agricultural opportunities. In 1902, the President and his supporters pushed a reclamation law through Congress. The law provided for the construction of federal irrigation projects in the western states and territories, using proceeds from the sale of public lands. Lands selected for reclamation were to be withdrawn from settlement but then opened to settlers under the Homestead Law after the construction of projects. No one person could receive more than 160 acres within a project and settlers were to eventually repay the government for the costs of construction.

Law of 1902

Special Message of the President Transmitting Report of the National Conservation Commission, January 22, 1909

Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt (Jennifer Reese)

The policy of conservation is perhaps the most typical example of the general policies which this Government has made peculiarly its own during the opening years of the present century. The function of our Government is to insure to all its citizens, now and hereafter, their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If we of this generation destroy the resources from which our children would otherwise derive their livelihood, we reduce the capacity of our land to support a population, and so either degrade the standard of living or deprive the coming generations of their right to life on this continent.

We should do all in our power to develop and protect individual liberty, individual initiative, but subject always to the need of preserving and promoting the general good. When necessary, the private right must yield, under due process of law and with proper compensation, to the welfare of the commonwealth...no man and no set of men should be allowed to play the game of competition with loaded dice.

All this is simply good common sense. The underlying principle of conservation has been described as the application of common sense to common problems for the common good.

Our public-land policy has for its aim the use of the public land so that it will promote local development by the settlement of homemakers; the policy we champion is to serve all the people legitimately and openly, instead of permitting the lands to be converted, illegitimately and under cover, to the private benefit of a few. Our forest policy was established so that we might use the public forests for the permanent public good, instead of merely for temporary private gain. The reclamation act, under which the desert parts of the public domain are converted to higher uses for the general benefit, was passed so that more Americans might have homes on the land.

We are striving to add in all ways to the habitability and beauty of our country. We are striving to hold in the public lands the remaining supply of unappropriated coal, for the protection and benefit of all the people. We have taken the first steps toward the conservation of our natural resources, and the betterment of country life, and the improvement of our waterways.

The nation, its government, and its resources exist, first of all, for the American citizen, whatever his creed, race, or birthplace, whether he be rich or poor, educated or ignorant, provided only that he is a good citizen, recognizing his obligations to the nation for the rights and opportunities which he owes to the nation.

The tasks this nation has to do are great tasks. They can only be done at all by our citizens acting together, and they can be done best of all by the direct and simple application of homely common sense.

Soon dozens of federally sponsored irrigation projects were underway in the West. Construction and management of the irrigation systems went to the Reclamation Service, later renamed the Bureau of Reclamation, but handling of Homestead entries remained with the General Land Office.

Another of Roosevelt's public lands issues was the resurgence of fraud. Ranchers were again fencing public lands; speculation and fraud surrounded Homestead, Desert Land, and Timber and Stone entries. The President created a second Public Lands Commission to look into the problem.


The Commission, chaired by Gifford Pinchot, found the public land laws "antiquated and ill-suited to conditions of the remaining public domain." It called for changes in the Homestead and Desert Land Laws to prevent fraud and asked that the Timber and Stone Law be repealed because timber companies were using it illegally to acquire large forest holdings. A few of the recommended changes were enacted by Congress, but Roosevelt had to largely rely on the GLO's corps of investigators to reduce fraudulent and illegal activity.

Second Public

President Roosevelt pushed other conservation measures with greater success. In 1905, he stepped-up creation of wildlife reserves (establishing more than 50 by the end of his term), and created the Forest Service within the Department of Agriculture to administer the forest reserves (soon after renamed national forests). He began the withdrawal of lands from settlement thought to be valuable as sites to build dams for the generation of electrical power. The President also pushed passage of the Antiquities Act of 1906.


The Antiquities Act provided for the protection of historic and prehistoric objects on public lands. Any "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" were to be designated as national monuments. Roosevelt created the first national monument that year with the withdrawal of Devils Tower in Wyoming. Ten years later, 35 natural areas and prehistoric sites, ranging from one-half acre to nearly 300,000 acres, had been set aside.

Act of 1906

The General Land Office was given the responsibility to manage and protect the national monuments, but Congress never appropriated the needed funds. In 1916, administration of the monuments was transferred to the newly created National Park Service, which also took over management of the national parks from the Secretary of the Interior.


Another of Theodore Roosevelt's conservation concerns dealt with the mineral values of the public domain. Much of his attention focused on coal; vital to the nation's industrial economy and the heating of homes.

Fraudulent acquisition of coal lands had been a problem for years; to stop the problem, Roosevelt wanted to withhold these lands so the Geological Survey could determine whether the lands were more valuable for coal than for other purposes. The President did this in 1906. Roosevelt, however, had no explicit authority from Congress to make such withdrawals, but he did contend, that as chief executive, the President could do whatever was necessary in the interest of the people, as long as the Constitution did not specifically prohibit it. Many in Congress disagreed with this rationale; but a year after Roosevelt left the White House, Congress enacted the General Withdrawal or Pickett Act of 1910, giving the President power to "temporarily" withdraw public lands from settlement and location for public purposes.

Coal Lands

The coal land withdrawal action, which embraced more than 66 million acres by November 1906, shocked western politicians and business interests. They clamored for revocation of the withdrawals, claiming that withholding coal lands from development would result in winter coal shortages and that the withdrawals kept lands from homesteaders.

To solve the problem, the President advocated settlement if the coal could be reserved to the government. On the last day of his presidency, Roosevelt signed the Act of March 3, 1909, which provided patents to homesteaders who had settled previously unclassified coal lands, as long as they consented to the United States' reservation of the coal. The Act of June 22, 1910, permitted homesteaders to file for known coal lands under the same condition.

Coal to the

The policy of reserving mineral rights was also extended to petroleum lands by Roosevelt's successors. Public land valuable for oil could be patented under the placer mining law; to protect that resource, President William Howard Taft in 1909 began to withdraw suspected petroleum lands from agricultural entry. In 1912, Congress permitted nonmineral entries on oil and gas lands in Utah, as long as those minerals were reserved to the United States. Two years later, during Woodrow Wilson's administration, the policy was extended to all public lands and the list of minerals that could be reserved was enlarged to include phosphate, nitrate, potash, and asphaltic minerals.

Reserving Oil
and Gas to
the U.S.

As part of the mineral policies initiated during his Presidency, Roosevelt had advocated a leasing policy for coal and petroleum lands, but Congress resisted the idea. In 1917, potassium deposits could be leased because potassium was essential to America's production of military explosives during World War I. This prompted the policy to extend leasing to coal, petroleum, natural gas, sodium, phosphate, and oil shale in 1920.


Under the Mineral Leasing Act individuals and companies could prospect for and develop the minerals listed. Preference-right leases were issued to those who discovered previously unknown deposits or were able to develop deposits previously thought unworkable into marketable minerals. Competitive leases were issued for public lands known to have valuable mineral deposits. Of the royalties received by the United States from production of minerals under these leases, 10 percent went to the U.S. Treasury, 37-1/2 percent to the states in which production occurred, and the remainder to a fund for the construction of federal irrigation projects.

Leasing Law
of 1920

The law was administered among three Interior Department agencies. The Geological Survey, through its Land Classification Branch (later renamed the Conservation Division) classified public lands according to mineral value. The General Land Office issued leases and collected fees and royalties, and the Bureau of Mines oversaw lease development.

by Larry Godwin
Geologist, Washington Office

On March 3, 1879, Congress established the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in the Department of the Interior and charged it with the responsibility for classifying public lands and examining the geologic structure and mineral resources and products of the national domain.

Conservationists were becoming increasingly alarmed over the waste of coal and other mineral resources caused by poor mining methods and apathy toward conserving nonrenewable resources. During the 1890s many large companies fraudulently obtained coal land by paying others to homestead lands having coal in the subsurface. Most of the western coal fields were unmapped and had not been classified. Accusations of fraud increased until, in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered coal basins in the western United States withdrawn from agricultural entry until they could be classified. That same year the USGS began mapping and classifying coal fields on the public lands, establishing the Land Classification Board to oversee the efforts.

In 1920, Congress passed the Mineral Leasing Act which changed the disposal of oil and gas, coal, and other minerals to leasing. The Bureau of Mines was given full responsibility for managing oil and gas leasing operations. In 1922, Interior Secretary Albert B. Fall approved the issuance of leases in the Teapot Dome Naval Petroleum Reserve without competitive bidding. Congressional investigations revealed that Fall had accepted money in return for the leases. As a result of this scandal, Fall's successor, Hubert Work, in 1925, transferred the mineral-leasing responsibilities to the USGS.

The Conservation Branch was established to incorporate these new functions with the Land Classification Board. It was authorized to classify lands according to their highest use; protect the public interest in undeveloped minerals, water power, and agricultural resources; and promote economical and efficient development of mineral deposits on public and Indian lands. In 1948, the Conservation Branch became the Conservation Division.

The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands Act extended the jurisdiction of the United States to include the continental shelf outside the 3-nautical-mile zone. The act authorized the Secretary of the Interior to grant OCS mineral leases through competitive bidding. In 1953, the Division became responsible for OCS mineral exploration and development.

By 1970, the Conservation Division was responsible for (1) managing exploration and development of OCS minerals; (2) classifying federal onshore lands as to their mineral and water power value and managing exploration and development of minerals on federal and Indian leases; and (3) collecting royalties from federal and Indian leases.

The Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations considered merging BLM, the Forest Service, and the Conservation Division into one agency. Finally, on January 19, 1982, the Reagan Administration established the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and transferred to it all functions of the Conservation Division. On December 3, 1982, all MMS's onshore minerals management functions were transferred to BLM.


The Conservation Movement did not mean that the nation's settlement policy for the public lands had come to an end—far from it. The country's commitment to providing farms to the landless is well illustrated by the Reclamation Act of 1902 and other acts.

The Forest Homestead Law of 1906 opened agricultural lands within the forest reserves to settlement.

Law of 1906

The most significant settlement law passed during the Roosevelt years, however, was the Enlarged Homestead Law. The new law responded to the dryland farming movement that grew soon after the turn of the century. Lands previously thought to be valuable only for grazing now became valuable for agriculture as farmers adopted techniques of deep plowing, soil compacting, summer fallowing, and seeding drought-resistant crops. Dryland farming, however, required greater capital investment and more land.

Law of 1909

The Enlarged Homestead Law gave 320 acres to farmers who entered public lands that could not be irrigated. As with the 1862 Homestead statute, homesteaders had to reside on the land. One-eighth the area entered now had to be planted, whereas the 1862 statute had no specific requirement and settlers who had made 1862 Homestead entries were permitted to make additional entries that would increase their total holdings to 320 acres. Representatives from California, Idaho, Kansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota originally asked that the law not be extended to the public lands within their boundaries, but by 1915, the new law, in one form or another, had been extended to those states as well.

Congress further liberalized the homesteading laws in 1912 with passage of the Three-Year Homestead Law. This law reduced the 5-year residence and cultivation requirements to 3 years.

Law of 1912

The Enlarged Homestead and Three-Year Homestead Laws further stimulated a homestead rush already underway in the West because of dryland farming promotion, increased precipitation, rising land values, and escalating agricultural commodity prices. Millions of acres were turned by the plow and new communities sprang up across the West. In Montana, the Enlarged Homestead Law pushed entries from the 7,500 filed in 1909 to nearly 22,000 the following year. The crush of settlement activity led to more Homestead entries being patented after 1900 than before.


The rush for homesteads, however, ended with America's entrance into World War I in 1917. Many homesteaders were drafted into the military, while others left to take well-paying industrial jobs in the cities. After the war the bust continued as drought swept across many parts of the West and agricultural and livestock economic prices collapsed.


The El Reno District Land Office, Oklahoma Territory, 1901


Another reason that homesteading dwindled after World War I was the fact that the public domain had little good agricultural land remaining. Excluding Alaska, there was little more than 200 million acres of vacant, unappropriated, and unreserved public land remaining. Much of the land was located in the eleven westernmost states, and most of it was described by the General Land Office as arid, broken, mountainous, or grazing in character.

It would be wrong to call this remaining acreage, as so many have, the "land no one wanted." Many western ranchers still depended on the remaining public domain to support their herds. They had no right to these lands, but used the range for all it was worth. "It was," as the Forest Service's Chief of Grazing, Will C. Barnes, put it in 1926, "a clear case of first come, first served and the devil take the hindmost." Never assured use of the same range year after year, ranchers crowded and allowed overgrazing of public lands and, by doing so, were destroying the foundation upon which their ranches were built.

Grazing the

Crowding and overgrazing the public domain had been a long-term problem for the western livestock industry. As early as the 1870s, there was more livestock than the range could provide for. Cattle ranchers first tried to use livestock associations and organized roundups to control the situation. The coming of sheepherders and farmers, however, complicated matters. Ranchers, as pointed out earlier, began fencing the range with barbed wire to keep others out and gain control of scarce water sources through the use of fraudulent land entries. The federal government, however, ordered the fences down and investigated the illegal claims.

The root of the ranchers' problem was that the federal government was not meeting their needs. Stockraisers had to have more than 160 acres of range for their herds. By 1900, some ranchers were advocating a grazing lease system for public lands, and in 1905, Theodore Roosevelt's Public Lands Commission seconded the recommendation. Opposition to the proposal was strong and Roosevelt's effort to enact such a law in 1907 was rejected by Congress.

In 1916, Congress decided that the answer to the public lands grazing problem was not leasing but larger homesteads. The Stockraising Homestead Law allowed individuals to enter 640 acres (one section) of public land chiefly valuable for grazing and the cultivation of forage crops. Settlers had to reside on the land and make improvements equal to a $1.25 an acre. All coal and other minerals were reserved to the United States. Those who had already made entry under other homestead laws could make additional entries until their holdings equalled 640 acres.

Law of 1916

The new law offered great hope. In its first year of operation, about 60,000 applications were filed for some 20 million acres of public land. Most of the entries, however, had to be suspended until the public lands could be classified as to their character as grazing lands.

Within a few years, attitudes had changed. Agricultural economists agreed that a section of land was inadequate to support enough livestock for a family ranch. By 1923, the General Land Office contended that few making entry under the law could comply with the law's requirements in good faith. Another policy was needed.

Grazing policy debate in the 1920s focused on a leasing system for the public domain. As important as the question of what type of lease arrangement would be provided was the question of who would administer the policy: the Department of the Interior or the Agriculture Department. Rivalry between the departments was keen, but in 1924 Interior gained the edge after the Forest Service alienated ranchers with a proposal to raise national forest grazing fees.


In 1928, Congress established the Mizpah-Pumpkin Creek Grazing District in southeastern Montana under the direction of the Interior. The reserve comprised just over 100,000 acres of federal, state, Northern Pacific Railway Company, and private lands. Congress provided for the leasing of public lands to an association of ranchers who proposed to block ownership and ensure conservative grazing. Congress hoped this experiment would indicate the policy direction they should pursue.


Before the Mizpah-Pumpkin Creek Grazing District could do that, however, President Herbert Hoover proposed giving the remaining vacant, unappropriated, and unreserved public lands to the states. Hoover felt the states could better manage the remaining public domain and in 1930 established a Committee on the Conservation and Administration of the Public Domain. In its 1931 report, this third public lands commission supported the Hoover initiative, and called for the cession of the public lands. Overwhelming opposition to the proposition, both in the East and the West, killed the recommendation.

Third Public

The rejection of the Hoover proposal gave the leasing idea new life. The Mizpah-Pumpkin Creek Grazing District was so successful, that ranchers from across the West petitioned Congress and the Department of the Interior to create similar grazing reserves in their areas. Supporters of leasing, however, wanted a law that applied to all public lands.

Grazing Issue

Led first by Congressman Don Colton of Utah and then by Congressman Edward Taylor of Colorado, general grazing lease bills were introduced, but opposition to them was strong. The deadlock was not broken until 1934, when Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes threatened to withdraw the public lands and begin regulating grazing under his own authority. This, along with a worsening drought in the West, forced the opposition to capitulate. In signing the Taylor Grazing Act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared it "a great forward step in the interests of conservation, which will prove of benefit not only to those engaged in the livestock industry, but also the nation as a whole."

The Taylor Grazing Act sought "to stop injury to the public grazing lands [excluding Alaska] by preventing overgrazing and soil deterioration; to provide for their orderly use, improvement, and development; [and] to stabilize the livestock industry dependent upon the public range" through lease of the public domain to stockraisers. Pending the "final disposition" of the public lands, the Secretary of the Interior was permitted to place 80 million acres of public land chiefly valuable for grazing and forage crops into grazing districts. Section 3 of the law provided for the lease of grazing district lands to landowners and homesteaders in or adjacent to the reserves first and the issuance of 1 to 10 year leases. The public lands within grazing districts were withdrawn from nonmineral entry, but lands classified as valuable for agricultural development under Section 7 could, at the Secretary's discretion, be opened to homesteading. Private lands within the grazing reserves could be exchanged for outside public lands. Isolated and disconnected tracts of public land no larger than 640 acres could now be sold to facilitate district administration, an effort to consolidate federal and private land holdings. Public lands outside grazing districts could, under Section 15, be leased to ranchers with contiguous property.

Grazing Act
of 1934

After signing the law, President Franklin D. Roosevelt withdrew from nonmineral entry all vacant, unreserved, and unappropriated public lands in the West so that grazing districts could be set aside and the remaining public lands classified as to their best use.


Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes created a Division of Grazing within his department to administer the grazing districts created under the Taylor Grazing Act. To head the division, he selected Farrington "Ferry" Carpenter, a northwestern Colorado rancher who had studied law at Harvard and Princeton.

Division of
Farrington Carpenter
Farrington Carpenter (Jennifer Reese)

Immediately after his appointment, Carpenter set up a series of local and state meetings with ranchers and state officials to discuss grazing policy and to determine grazing district boundaries. The first district was established in Wyoming on March 20, 1935. Others followed in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah. By June 1935, more than 65 million acres had been incorporated into grazing districts.


Ranchers recommended the establishment of 50 grazing districts covering 142 million acres, 62 million more than authorized under the Taylor Grazing Act. Congress consented to this recommendation in 1936. Eventually, the acreage limitation was entirely eliminated.

New Mexico Grazing District No. 6's advisory board allocating use of the public range in 1936. (BLM)

With the creation of grazing districts, rules and regulations to control grazing use had to be promulgated. In granting grazing permits to ranchers, the first priority was to those who had adequate private land to support their herds when not using the public range and who had a history of range experience. Others would be given permits using criteria that weighed property ownership and traditional use. For the privilege of using the public lands, ranchers and sheepherders were assessed a fee of 5 cents per animal unit month (AUM), which was judged to be the cost of feeding one cow, one horse, or five sheep for 1 month.

Range Use

To help administer the grazing districts, Carpenter set up district advisory boards. From these boards, he sought advice and recommendations on district grazing boundaries, range conditions, and the apportionment of public rangelands among users. This "home rule on the range" was successful and ensured the cooperation and help of ranchers in implementing the Taylor Grazing Act.


Taylor Grazing Districts (January 1937) and regional offices

Congress gave the district advisory boards legal status in 1939. The following year, a National Advisory Board Council composed of district board representatives was organized, and later state advisory boards came into being.

In administering the grazing districts, Carpenter sought both to conserve and to restore the range. To do this, he enlisted the assistance of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC workers developed watering sources to more evenly distribute livestock on the range and erected fencing for better range management. CCC crews also worked on rodent and insect control, soil erosion measures, and fought fires.

CCC and the
Public Range

Secretary Ickes, who had disliked Farrington Carpenter from the beginning, finally fired him in 1939 and replaced him with Richard H. Rutledge. Under the new director, a former Forest Service employee, the Division of Grazing was renamed the U.S. Grazing Service and its headquarters transferred to Salt Lake City in 1941.

by Richard Rutledge
Director, U.S. Grazing Service

Grazing Service logo

Editor's Note: Grazing Service Director Richard Rutledge sought to establish an effective conservation agency. To achieve this, he set forth principles of conduct for his District Graziers. Here are some of the principles.

SELF-RELIANCE—There is often the tendency upon receiving a tough assignment to push it aside and wait until you can ask the boss a lot of questions concerning the way he wants the job done. This results in procrastination and in a leaning attitude on the part of the doer. Stand on your own feet and take responsibility.

ORGANIZATIONAL ATTITUDE—No organization can be successful if cliques or jealousies exist. These things tend to retard and to break down the spirit of the organization. Likewise, feuds and personal fights are extremely detrimental and are bound to react upon someone. Troublemakers have no place in the organization. Rating officers must take recognition of such things. The ability to get along with and work with others, and the attitude toward others, are important factors in efficiency determination.

PUBLIC SERVICE—Let's get firmly fixed in our minds at the outset that we are public servants, employed by the public and paid by the public from funds provided by taxation in some form. We are responsible to the entire public and are not bureaucratic bosses to work our will upon the public as we see fit.

SHARP PRACTICES—There can be no place in an administrator's thoughts or actions for anything that approaches sharp practices. Stockmen are usually not as well informed as the administrator. Many times they are trusting, depending upon the administrator. There should be no tendency toward scheming around or taking advantage of lack of information or ignorance. Your actions should always be square, with equity and fairness.

MIXING—This is somewhat akin to friendliness, although it goes farther. It is very necessary that an administrator mix with or contact all kinds of people, meetings, associations, church groups, and others. Be a part of the community.

SELF-JUSTIFICATION—One of the very worst habits that an administrator can fall into is that of trying to justify his actions under all circumstances. If an administrator has made a mistake, the thing to do is to face the situation and correct the action. An administrator can lose the respect and confidence of his users very quickly by adopting an attitude of self-justification.

CAPRICIOUSNESS—The administrator should avoid actions which might be termed capricious. Any funny notion or foolish idea, or snap judgement, may take the turn of capriciousness. Keep your feet on the ground and remember that you are business men [sic], doing business.


The Taylor Grazing Act gave the General Land Office new responsibilities. Its previous function had primarily been to dispose of public lands and minerals. Now the GLO had authority to manage these resources.

The Secretary of the Interior gave the GLO responsibility for administering the leasing of rangelands outside the grazing districts as provided by the Taylor Grazing Act. It also handled all land exchanges, land sales, settlement entries, and mineral leasing within the grazing districts. The largest responsibility given to the GLO, however, was the classification of public lands to further the conservation and development of public land resources outside grazing districts.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt's executive order of November 1934 directed that all remaining public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming be temporarily withdrawn, investigated for possible inclusion in grazing districts, and classified for agricultural values. Public lands could not be allocated until their best and highest use had been determined. In February 1935, the order was extended to include public lands in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Washington, and Wisconsin.


The move toward conservation required a major reorganization of the GLO. It was no longer just a disposal agency. A Range Development Service was created in 1939 to plan and oversee construction of range improvements. The inventory and classification of public lands went to a Branch of Planning, Use, and Protection, while a Branch of Research and Administration aided conservation efforts by abstracting agency land records so that federal land and mineral interests could be identified. Transfer of the Interior Department's Division of Investigations to the GLO in 1942 enabled the agency to better investigate illegal use of public lands.


The Oregon and California Revested Lands Sustained Yield Management Act of August 28, 1937 gave the General Land Office even more conservation responsibilities. The revested lands had been granted in 1866 to the Oregon and California (O&C) Railroad Company for construction of a line from Portland to the California border. Congress stipulated in 1869 that the 3.7 million acres granted the railroad had to be sold in tracts no larger than 160 acres to actual settlers and for no more than $2.50 an acre. The company and its successors ignored the conditions; so, in 1916, after lengthy litigation, Congress revoked title to more than 2 million acres of the grant. In 1919, the federal government reclaimed another 93,000 acres from the nearby Coos Bay Wagon Road Grant.


Revested lands of the Oregon and California Railroad and the Coos Bay Wagon Road

The revested lands had some of the best timber stands in the United States. Naturally, the Forest Service wanted jurisdiction over the former land grant lands, but Congress gave it to the General Land Office because of the ill will Oregonians had toward the Forest Service. The GLO's mandate was to classify the revested lands in terms of their value for power sites, agriculture, or timber. Lands were then to be disposed of accordingly, although, trees on timberlands had be cut before the land itself was sold. Revenues from the lands and timber sold were to be divided among the federal government, Oregon, and the counties in which the lands were located.

of the O&C

The GLO immediately began classifying the O&C lands with a small staff of surveyors and timber cruisers. As timberlands were identified, they were offered for sale at auction to the highest bidders, who then had 10 years to cut the timber. Timber sales were disappointing over the next 20 years and the GLO came under increasing criticism for its management of the area.

The Oregon and California Revested Lands Sustained Yield Management Act of 1937 sought to enhance the GLO's administration of the O&C lands. The law called for implementation of a sustained yield cutting program (lumber production would not exceed forest regeneration), so that continuous forest production could be assured. Lands could be used for grazing and recreation, and watersheds, wildlife, and other resources were to be protected. Receipts from the sale of timber were generously shared with counties having O&C lands.

An O&C Revested Lands Administration was placed under the General Land Office in 1938 to implement the act, and Walter Horning was appointed chief forester. Under his guidance, district offices were established, timber cutting regulations written, rights-of-way acquired, and timber inventory work begun.

Along with the establishment of the O&C Administration, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes appointed an O&C Advisory Board. The board represented state government, county, lumber, and public interests and advised the O&C Administration's chief forester on policy matters. District advisory boards were also established.

To supplement the O&C Administration's meager budget, several Civilian Conservation Corps camps were assigned to the revested lands. CCC enrollees constructed roads, planted trees, worked on insect control, and fought fires. This work did much to conserve and improve the management of O&C lands.

Civilian Conservation Corps Camp in the O&C area of Oregon (BLM)


The General Land Office's new conservation program also included public lands in Alaska. Alaska was truly the United States' last frontier; the region had long been ignored, and little of its 378 million acres developed. Alaska was a land apart. None of the public land laws of the contiguous United States applied to Alaska, unless expressly provided.

Land Apart

There had been no public interest in acquiring Alaska before its purchase in 1867. After the area was bought a few hardy Americans rushed north to take advantage of whatever opportunities the new territory might offer. Commissioner of the General Land Office Joseph S. Wilson spoke of Alaska's potential in 1868. He estimated 150,000 acres of good agricultural land existed and noted deposits of gold, silver, copper, coal, and other minerals. Wilson recommended that the public land system be extended to Alaska so "settlers, present and prospective, may enjoy the privileges similar to those conceded to our people elsewhere in the public domain."


Congress paid no attention to Alaska until the discovery of gold in the early 1880s. The Act of May 17, 1884 extended the mining laws to the region and established a local land office to handle mining claim patent applications. That was, however, all Congress chose to do, for it then declared that "nothing contained in [the] Act shall be construed to put in force in said district the general land laws of the United States."

Mining Laws

Two years later Commissioner of the General Land Office William A. J. Sparks still saw no need to change the situation. "No information," he pointed out, "indicates either the necessity or expediency of extending the public land laws over the territory at present." Sparks noted that only one mineral application had been filed and the value of Alaska's agricultural lands was questionable. He felt it best to hold the region for future occupation. Congress agreed, but did in 1891, provide for the establishment of townsites and 160-acre trade and manufacturing sites.

Townsite and
Other Laws

The Klondike discovery in 1896, which brought thousands of gold seekers north, forced Congress to extend other public land laws to Alaska. The Act of May 14, 1898 granted railroad rights-of-way, allowed timber cutting, and permitted entry of 80-acre tracts under the Homestead Law. The public land survey system was extended to the region in 1899, and the year after that, the Coal Land Law of 1873 was also implemented.

Homestead and

The new laws had little impact on Alaska. By 1914, fewer than 200 Homestead applications had been filed and little of the territory's coal had been mined. To encourage the settlement and development of Alaska, Congress that year funded construction of a railroad from the Pacific coastline to Fairbanks and provided for the lease of coal deposits. Neither action achieved the intended result; however, construction of the Alaska Railroad, completed in 1923, did lead to the founding of Anchorage.


The federally sponsored Alaska Resources Committee reported to Congress in 1938 on the resources and potential development of the territory. Committee members pointed out that there was no population pressure nor raw resource demand requiring rapid development. Alaska's resources, however, did need protection until development. This was particularly true for timber and the committee stated that "establishment of a fire-protection organization on the open public domain [was] an essential first step in...bringing the public-land resources under a reasonable degree of control."

GLO auction of Anchorage townsites in July 1915 (BLM)

The General Land Office responded to the Alaska Resources Committee report by gathering information on the economic resources of Alaska. The agency also looked at the protection of the Territory's resources, and in 1939, persuaded Congress to appropriate funds for fire suppression in Alaska. This resulted in the creation of the Alaskan Fire Control Service.

GLO in

The Alaskan Fire Control Service (AFCS) was a bare-bones operation. It had a chief forester and 10 permanent staff members. During the summer it was augmented by temporary fire guards and later with CCC crews. The vastness of Alaska, however, restricted most fire suppression work to areas accessible by railroad or highway.

Alaska Fire

The coming of war had a significant impact on the activities of the General Land Office and the Grazing Service. Both agencies were looking at ways they could contribute to the national defense program. They tried to continue their conservation efforts on the public lands, but this became increasingly difficult when America entered into World War II.

The General Land Office and the Grazing Service found themselves understaffed and underfunded. Civilian Conservation Corps camps were closed in 1942 and the work of enrollees had to be abandoned. For the Grazing Service, this meant a halt to range improvements and a reorganization of their firefighting program. The GLO replaced its CCC camps on the O&C with Public Service Camps staffed with conscientious objectors, and the Alaskan Fire Control Service received invaluable assistance from the Army. But still conservation of the public lands suffered. Livestock trespasses increased on public rangelands and timber harvesting on the O&C lands went above allowable levels in an effort to meet wartime demands.

War's Impact

As the end of the war neared, the GLO and the Grazing Service began to look at ways to resurrect conservation efforts. The General Land Office's postwar policy called for "continued management under progressive conservation policies for...in no other way [could] the domestic demands for maximum beneficial use of the land and resources of the public domain, adequately be met." To accomplish that, the GLO argued that new laws had to be provided. It recommended a review of the public land laws and a congressional restatement of the nation's public land policy. It also called for authority to lease acquired mineral estates, a uniform trespass law, and the decentralization of administrative and adjudication functions to regional offices.

Postwar Plans

The General Land Office was particularly concerned with Alaska. Construction of the Alaska Highway during the war had made the Territory more accessible. Military and civilian personnel who had gone to Alaska were expected to stay. The GLO believed its jurisdiction over much of Alaska's land made it responsible for the orderly development of the Territory. It asked for land classification authority and laws better suited to Alaska's conditions.

Alaska Plans

by Roger R. Robinson
Former Director, Boise Interagency Fire Center

The Congress authorized the establishment of the Alaskan Fire Control Service (AFCS) beginning July 1, 1939 in the USDI under the aegis of the General Land Office. Its mission: the detection and suppression of wild forest and range fires on the Public Lands in the Territory of Alaska.

Western and interior Alaska for years had suffered from large fires burning unchecked during its 5 to 6 month fire season; fires started by trappers, miners, farmers and generally careless travelers. It was not until AFCS had been in operation a year that it was found lightning was in some years a major cause!

Fifty years ago relatively few people in the contiguous states knew anything about Alaska and most of their "facts" were wrong! The quirk of fate: Secretary Ickes on his honeymoon trip in 1938 visited Alaska and was confronted by Alaskans and shown the ravages of wildfires and the ever-present threat to the cities and homes of the pioneers. Anchorage had to build a major fire break (600 feet wide and 3 miles long) to protect itself from fires started by the government-owned Alaska Railroad. Secretary Ickes was impressed and upon his return to Washington pushed for the establishment of a firefighting agency in Alaska.

The head office was set up in Anchorage under W. J. McDonald, Chief, R. R. Robinson, Associate Chief, and C. W. Butler, Chief Clerk. Two stenos, a mechanic, and a warehouseman rounded out the Anchorage operation. Fairbanks District had a fire control officer, a mechanic, a warehouseman and a steno. A very small amount of equipment and 10 temporary fire guards completed the roster. Although we were responsible for detection and suppression of fires on some 125 million acres, we obviously could do little except work on fires along the few miles of road around Anchorage and Fairbanks. Our major effort was getting to know the country and trying to find out what, where and how the fire control job could be effectively accomplished. We also had to begin an intensive education campaign to prevent fires.

With the start of World War II the Congress cut appropriations for all "old line agencies"—for FY 1941 we received $27,000! We survived only because all Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) activities on Alaska's public lands lands were turned over to the AFCS in the fall of 1940. Their funds and personnel were used by us until the CCC was terminated in 1942.

Beginning in 1940, the Alaska Defense Command was establishing a military presence throughout Alaska. The Army realized the importance of fire control in all military areas—not only for its installations, munition dumps, etc., but also the real necessity to keep the vital air lanes to Alaska free of smoke. We developed specially trained and equipped fire crews and had aircraft assigned as needed for transport to the back country. AFCS, young as we were, became a leader in the use of aircraft in fire suppression.

AFCS survived the war years up to 1946, at which time the BLM was created by combining the General Land Office and the Grazing Service. Alaska became a separate region within the BLM and the AFCS became the Division of Forestry.


Grazing Service officials also concerned themselves with postwar policies. They wanted to reinstitute range studies and range improvement projects. Their efforts to do this, however, were hampered by congressional attacks.

The Grazing Service problems came from its effort to raise grazing fees. The initial fee of 5 cents per animal unit month (AUM) had been reasonable in the mid-1930s when poor economic conditions prevailed, but prosperity had returned to the livestock industry by the eve of World War II. In 1941, a Grazing Service study showed that the 5-cent fee was considerably below that charged for private and state lands and one-sixth that charged by the national forests. The Grazing Service recommended tripling its existing fee.

Grazing Fee

Ranchers using grazing district lands opposed the proposal. Resistance was particularly strong in Nevada, where ranchers had just lost a suit before the U.S Supreme Court demanding that the Grazing Service be restrained from interfering with their free use of the public range. Faced with this opposition, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes backed off the proposed fee increase.

Fee Increase

The appointment of Clarence Forsling as Grazing Service Director in 1944 resurrected the grazing fee issue. Like his predecessor Rutledge, Forsling came from the Forest Service and viewed the 1941 fee increase proposal as fair when compared with that of the Forest Service. He asked the National Advisory Board Council to agree to a 1941 fee increase but the board turned him down cold.

Fee Increase

Forsling was not without allies in his call for a fee increase. The House of Representatives' Appropriations Committee favored the proposal. Appropriations for administration of the grazing districts appeared high to many legislators and they wanted the Grazing Service to cover most of its own expenses through the fees it collected. Senator Pat McCarren of Nevada and other westerners in the Senate opposed such an idea.

Grazing Fee

By 1946, the Grazing Service was caught between a House committee demanding a fee increase and western senators warning against it. The trapped Grazing Service decided not to pursue the matter further. The House Appropriations Committee reacted by cutting the agency's funding to little more than $200,000, one-eighth of the Grazing Service's requirements. Senator McCarren felt the reduction too drastic. He wanted the Grazing Service subservient, but did not want it destroyed. He worked to have the budget increased to half of what the agency had requested. This appropriation forced the Grazing Service to cut its personnel from 250 to 86 and to close 11 of its 60 district grazing offices.


As the Grazing Service's relations worsened with Congress, Interior officials looked at merging it with the General Land Office. Both agencies were responsible for grazing issues, but the division of duties was awkward. The Grazing Service dealt primarily with grazing policy, while the General Land Office handled settlement, land sale, land exchange, and mineral entries in the grazing districts. The GLO also administered grazing lands outside grazing districts, a task the Grazing Service could better handle. Both agencies were responsible for land classification and planning within grazing districts, and consequently, both competed for funds to do the work. By integrating the agencies' responsibilities, more effective management of the public land's resources could be achieved through better utilization of skills and experience. Yet, a departmental committee, seeing no need for reorganization, recommended against the proposal in late 1945.


In January 1946 Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, perhaps concerned over the Grazing Service's troubles with Congress, decided to again recommend a merger. In May, President Harry S. Truman forwarded the proposal to Congress as part of his Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1946.

Plan No. 3 of

By law, the proposed merger could only be prevented if both houses of Congress passed nonconcurrent resolutions. The House of Representatives did this, but the Senate, after much debate, did not. On July 16, 1946, the Grazing Service and the General Land Office became the Bureau of Land Management, and "with that date," notes historian E. Louise Peffer, "there...opened 'a new chapter in the history of...[public] land administration in the United States.'"

A New

There are several good general public land history overviews. Benjamin Hibbard's A History of the Public Land Policies (1924) is quite helpful in sorting out the numerous land laws and their requirements. The Lure of the Land: A Social History of the Public Lands from the Articles of Confederation to the New Deal (1970) by Everett Dick is written for general readers, as is Roy M. Robbins', Our Landed Heritage: The Public Domain, 1776-1970 (Revised edition, 1976). The authoritative History of Public Land Law Development (1968) written by Paul Gates is mandatory reading for anyone truly interested in the history of public land policy.

For books with readings on various aspects of public land policy, see The Public Lands: Studies in the History of the Public Domain (1962) edited by Vernon Carstensen and Paul Gates, ed., Public Land Policies: Management and Disposal (1979).

On the early aspects of public land policy, Malcolm J. Rohrbough's The Land Office Business: The Settlement and Administration of American Public Lands, 1789-1837 (1968) is outstanding. On military land bounties, see Jerry O'Callaghan's, "The War Veteran and the Public Lands," in The Public Lands: Studies in the History of the Public Domain (1962), edited by Vernon Carstensen.

On the General Land Office and its operation, see Malcolm Rohrbough's, "The General Land Office, 1812-1826: An Administrative Study," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1963; F. H. White's, "The Administration of the General Land Office, 1812-1911," Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1912 and Milton Conover's, The General Land Office: Its History, Activities and Organization (1923).

Closely intertwined with public land questions has been the federal government's policy toward Native American possession of land. Francis Paul Prucha's two volume The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians (1984) is a comprehensive look at federal Indian policy.

The process of surveying the public lands is a subject of interest to many. For an instruction to the subject, readers should refer to Joseph Ernst's, With Compass and Chain (1979); Lola Cazier's, Surveys and Surveyors of the Public Domain, 1785-1975 (ca. 1975); and C. Albert White's, A History of the Rectangular Survey System (1982). The impact of the rectangular survey system on the environment is well addressed by Hildegard Binder Johnson in Order Upon the Land: The U.S. Rectangular Land Survey and the Upper Mississippi Country (1976).

The federal government's grants of land to the states was an important feature of public land policy. Of interest here is Matthais Orfield's, Federal Land Grants to the States with Special Reference to Minnesota (1915).

Grants of public lands for the construction of railroads is a topic that has attracted the attention of numerous historians. A few of the works available are Carter Goodrich's, Government Promotion of American Canals and Railroads, 1800-1890 (1960); Thomas E. Root's, Railroad Land Grants from Canals to Transcontinentals (1986); William S. Greever's, Arid Domain: The Santa Fe Railway and Its Western Land Grant (1954); and Ross Cotroneo's, The History of the Northern Pacific Land Grant, 1900-1952 (1979).

Private land claims and grants have not received the attention they deserve. Claims that are a consequence of early land acquisitions of the United States' are discussed by Paul Gates' "Private Land Claims in the South," in Public Land Policies: Management and Disposal (1979) edited by Paul Gates. Mexican and Spanish grants in New Mexico are taken up by Victor Westphall in Mercedes Reales: Hispanic Land Grants of the Upper Rio Grande Region (1983).

The settlement laws and their operation in the later half of the nineteenth century are discussed in numerous books and articles. Those interested in this subject might consider starting with "The Homestead Law in an Incongruous Land System" by Paul Gates in The Public Lands: Studies in the History of the Public Domain (1962) edited by Vernon Carstensen. Also good is John T. Ganoe's, "The Desert Land Act in Operation, 1877-1891," in Public Land Policies: Management and Disposal (1979) edited by Paul Gates. Harold Durham's Government Handout: A Study in the Administration of the Public Lands, 1875-1891 (1970) is indispensable to serious students of public land policy. For homesteading after 1900, see Mary W. M. Hargreaves', Dry Farming in the Northern Great Plains, 1900-1925 (1957); Paula M. Nelson's, After the West was Won: Homesteaders and Town-Builders in Western South Dakota, 1900-1917 (1986); and Barbara Allen's, Homesteading the High Desert (1987).

Few histories have been written on the administration and disposition of the public domain within their borders. Some of those that have been written are Paul Gates' Fifty Million Acres: Conflicts Over Kansas Land Policy, 1854-1890 (1954); The Public Domain in New Mexico, 1854-1891 (1965) by Victor Westphall; Stephen Strausberg's, Federal Stewardship on the (Indiana) Frontier (1979); and The Disposition of the Public Domain in Oregon (1979) by Jerry O'Callaghan.

Mineral policy is discussed by Robert W. Swenson in "Legal Aspects of Mineral Resources Exploitation" in Paul Gates' History of Public Land Law Development (1968), and in Public Domain—Private Dominion: A History of Public Mineral Policy in America (1985) by Carl Mayer and George Riley. Petroleum policy is taken up by John Ise in The United States Oil Policy (1926). On early federal government geological investigations and the U.S. Geological Survey, see Richard A. Bartlett's, Great Surveys of the American West (1953); Wallace Stegner's, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West (1954); and Mary C. Rabbitt's, Minerals, Lands, and Geology for the Common Defense and General Welfare: A History...of the U.S. Geological Survey, Before 1879-1939, 3 vols. (1979, 1980, 1986).

Irrigation and water in the West are addressed by Donald Worester's, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity and the Growth of the American West (1986); Donald J. Pisani's, From the Family Farm to Agribusiness: The Irrigation Crusade in California and the West, 1850-1931 (1984); and Michael C. Robinson's, Water for the West: The Bureau of Reclamation, 1902-1977 (1979).

On timber and forestry in general, refer to the work of Thomas Cox, Robert Maxwell, P. D. Thomas, and Joseph Malone, in This Well-Wooded Land: Americans and Their Forests from Colonial Times to the Present (1985). On the development of national forest policy, see Samuel T. Dana's, Forest and Range Policy: Its Development in the United States (1956), and Harold Steen's, The U.S. Forest Service: A History (1976). The O&C revested lands are discussed in Elmo Richardson's BLM's Billion-Dollar Checkerboard: Managing the O&C Lands (1980) and the The O&C Lands (1981) by the University of Oregon's Bureau of Governmental Research and Service.

The national park system is well-documented by Alfred Runte in his National Parks: The American Experience (1979).

Some books on conservation policy are Samuel Hays', Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency: The Progress Conservation Movement, 1890-1920 (1959); Elmo Richardson's, The Politics of Conservation: Crusades and Controversies, 1897-1913 (1962); E. Louise Peffer's, The Closing of the Public Domain: Disposal and Reservation Policies, 1900-50 (1951); Donald Swain's, Federal Conservation Policy, 1921-1933 (1963); and A.L. Riesch Owen, Conservation Under FDR (1983).

Grazing of the public domain has received much attention from historians and other writers, particular reference should be made to George Rollins', The Struggle of the Cattleman, Sheepman, and Settler for Control of Lands in Wyoming, 1867-1910 (1979); E. Louise Peffer's, The Closing of the Public Domain: Disposal and Reservation Policies, 1900-50 (1951); William Voigt, Jr.'s, Public Grazing Lands: Use and Misuse by Industry and Government (1976); Philip O. Foss', Politics and Grass: The Administration of Grazing on the Public Domain (1960). A history of the Grazing Service is much needed but see Farrington R. Carpenter's, Confessional of a Maverick: An Autobiography (1984), and Marvin Klemme's reminiscence about his time with the agency in Home Rule on the Range: Early Days of the Grazing Service (1984).

Public land policy toward Alaska has been largely ignored by historians. For some background, see Ernest Gruening's, State of Alaska (1958); William Hunt's, Alaska: A Bicentennial History (1976); and Melody Webb's, The Last Frontier: A History of the Yukon Basin of Canada (1985).

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 08-Sep-2008