Lands and Realty - General Land Policy

What is the Desert Land Act?

On March 3, 1877, the Desert Land Act was passed by Congress to encourage and promote the economic development of the arid and semiarid public lands of the Western United States. Through the Act, individuals may apply for a desert-land entry to reclaim, irrigate, and cultivate arid and semiarid public lands.

Most of the suitable lands for agricultural development have already been placed into private ownership. The remaining acres are managed for multiple uses. With the problems of finding suitable public land, limited water available for irrigation, and the high cost of development, it is extremely difficult to acquire a desert land entry.

Applicants may apply for one or more tracts of land totaling no more than 320 acres. They must be a citizen of the United States or have declared their intention to become a citizen. They must be 21 years old and a resident in the state in which the lands are located.

What is Color-of-Title?

The Color-of-Title Act provides that any individual, group, or corporation who has evidence giving the appearance of having title to public lands which are administered by the BLM, and legal title to the lands remains vested in the United States, may file a color-of-title claim. An applicant will receive a patent conveying clear title to the lands upon payment of the sale price of the lands if they meet the requirements for a class 1 or class 2 claim.

  • Class 1 Claim - Public lands held in good faith and peaceful, adverse possession by a claimant in interest for a minimum of 20 years under claim or color of title, and upon which the claimant in interest have placed valuable improvements, or on which some part of the land has been reduced to cultivation.
  • Class 2 Claim - Public lands held in good faith and peaceful, adverse possession by a claimant in interest under claim or color of title initiated no later than January 1, 1901, and for which the claimant in interest have paid State and local taxes from initiation of the claim to the date of application.

Application Procedures - Applications must be filed in the appropriate District Office using Forms 2540-1 and 2540-2 for both Class 1 and 2 claims and in addition, Form 2540-3 is required for Class 2 claims.

Mineral Estate (2720)

The BLM regulations establish procedures under section 209 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, for conveyance of mineral interests owned by the United States where the surface is or will be in non-Federal ownership.

The objective is to allow consolidation of surface and subsurface or mineral ownership where there are no "known mineral values" or in those instances where the reservation interferes with or precludes appropriate non-mineral development and such development is a more beneficial use of the land than the mineral development.

Application Procedures

Applications must be filed in the appropriate BLM District Office. No specific form is required but each application shall include the name, legal mailing address and telephone number of the existing or prospective record owner of the land; proof of ownership; a certified copy of any patent or other instrument of conveyance with supporting survey evidence. The application must also include a statement concerning the nature of federally-reserved or owned mineral values in the land; existing and proposed uses of the land; why the reservation of the mineral interests in the U.S. is interfering with or precluding appropriate non-mineral development; how and why such development would be a more beneficial use of the land; and a showing that the proposed use complies with state and local zoning requirement.