Land Tenure

The BLM is responsible for administering land tenure - the rules and arrangements connected with ownership and use of land - on public lands in order to achieve policy goals set out in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and other Federal laws.  FLPMA generally directs the BLM to retain most public lands, but the Bureau completes ownership transactions involving land and interests in land when doing so is in the public interest and consistent with publicly approved land use plans.

The BLM's responsibilities for land tenure in the U.S. date back to the days of the General Land Office, whose land transaction records the Bureau maintains.  Today, the BLM manages purchases, exchanges, donations and sales of specific parcels as tools for achieveing broader resource management goals. 

Sales of public lands are uncommon.  The BLM more often purchases or exchanges lands, or accepts donated lands in order to accomplish objectives such as:

  • improving natural resource management through consolidation of Federal, state and private lands;
  • increasing recreational opportunities and preserving open space;
  • securing key property for protecting endangered species or promoting biodiversity;
  • preserving archaeological, historical or cultural resources;
  • implementing specific acquisitions authorized by Congress; or
  • allowing for community expansion and consolidation of non-Federal land ownership.

Today, the BLM acquires lands or interests in lands (conservation easements) from willing landowners at fair market value primarily through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, and landowner donations.  In southern Nevada, additional transactions are conducted under the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act (SNPLMA).

For more information about BLM land tenure activities in Idaho, contact Dick Todd, (208) 373-3863.


Upper Snake River in eastern Idaho, where the BLM and partners are active in conservation through acquisition of lands and rights in land

In Idaho, landowner donations have been part of the Snake River Land Conservation Partnership's efforts to conserve lands along the Upper Snake River.  The LWCF and FLTFA funds supported conservation of other lands in this environmentally critical area.

In January 2010, the BLM acquired a 33-acre parcel along the Salmon River, north of the town of Salmon, through a landowner donation.