Bureau of Land Management
The fifty States have publically owned lands which have been acquired in a variety of actions, often linked in some part to their initial statehood. State entities manage this component of public lands as agents of the citizens of those states, and individual state laws govern those actions. Those laws may not be in conflict with national laws. Often there are arrangements for the common management of various types of public lands, so portions of national and state lands will be managed in some integrated form.
So-called "local" lands include lands owned by cities, towns, counties, townships, parishs and other such local entities. On a smaller and more local scale these lands may serve many of the same purposes as state and federal lands.
In the United States approximately one third of all lands are publically held. As public lands are typically used for public purposes that often are different from private purposes, their presence has varying impacts on the management and use of contiguous private lands. This will be reflected in part in the following comments about private lands.
First, it is correct to assume that private land is all of the land that is not public. Public agencies do not "own" private land. Private land is owned by individuals singly or collectively. The most common collective ownership is by firms or corporations doing business.
Second, however, is an important element of land ownership that relates to attendant energy and minerals rights. Simply stated, these rights are severable, and, as with the land, fully marketable by any and all owners. Thus, a first example of this unique characteristic is that private individuals may own minerals rights under public lands; the reverse is also true. Thus, in an environment where there is a dynamic market for energy and mineral rights, in combination and separably, the resulting distribution of these rights at any time is extraordinarily complex. Further, rights owners may subsequently resell partial rights to exploration, production, and marketing of energy and minerals products to additional owners. These owners in turn may engage various technical entities to conduct exploration, extraction, and production and marketing of all original and derived products.
Whereas this may seem to represent chaos, it is in fact a highly energized manifestation of an efficient allocation of resources to meet the expressed needs of society. Order is brought by the natural tendency for dominant players to evolve, which may include the federal land and minerals owner/manager in some instances. Further order results from the essential reinforcement of the primacy of individual rights, which stems from the Constitution and is reflected throughout subsequent legislation and judicial history. Thus, there is a very predictable and reliable set of rules and practices that govern property ownership and related transactions.