Land Acquisition Process

Federal Land Acquisition Process

Land protection in all areas of the National Park System is executed in accordance with the enabling act of each unit, appropriation act requirements, and provisions of other applicable legislation. The land acquisition process includes multiple planning and compliance steps and is dependent on the availability of funds for purchase. The entire process can take up to 3 years from the time funding is obtained. Listed below are the basic steps for a simple acquisition.

Proposal and Planning Process - In the case of a new park unit, various resource studies, and planning activities occur. Following passage of authorizing legislation, a General Management Plan and Land Protection Plan will be created to identify any land acquisitions necessary to meet the needs of the park and fulfill the requirements of the authorizing legislation.

Environmental Compliance - Per the National Environmental Policy Act, a Categorical Exclusion, an Environmental Assessment, or an Environmental Impact Statement may be required to ensure environmental concerns have been addressed.

Budget Process - Annually, the National Park Service conducts a Land Acquisition Ranking process and submits budget requests for use in preparation of Department of the Interior budget requests. Congress must appropriate funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund each year for land acquisition.

Prerequisite Evaluations - Prior to beginning negotiations with landowners, multiple prerequisite steps must be followed. These include survey and boundary confirmation, mapping and preparation of legal descriptions, and securing title evidence. Additionally, all property acquired for the United States is assessed to determine whether hazardous substances are present prior to acquisition. An appraisal is then conducted to determine the fair market value of the property.

Purchase Offer Negotiations - Upon determination of just compensation based on fair market value, a written offer is presented to the landowner for purchase of the real property. Negotiations are conducted with the landowner until agreement can be reached and a written agreement is obtained.

Closing Process - After a written offer is accepted by both parties, all required documents for transfer of title are prepared. The closing process is conducted soon thereafter to execute the deed and other required documents and to disburse funds to the landowner.

Document Recordation - Acquisition Completed - After the closing process is completed, deeds are filed in the appropriate local system of property ownership records. The date of filing in the public record system is the date of official title transfer and the date of acquisition completion.

Last updated: December 15, 2022