Federal Land Sales Frequently Asked Questions 

Does the Federal Government ever sell public lands? 

Lands identified as excess to the Federal Government's needs or as more suited to private ownership are sometimes offered for sale. The BLM does not offer much land for sale because its congressional mandate, enacted in 1976, is to generally retain public lands in public ownership. However, the BLM does occasionally sell parcels of public land where our land-use planning finds it to be appropriate and in the public interest.

Public land is undeveloped land with no improvements, usually part of the original Public Domain established during the western expansion of the United States. Most of this land is in the 11 western states and Alaska, although some scattered parcels are in the East. (Because of land entitlements to the State of Alaska and to Alaska Natives, no public land sales will be conducted in Alaska for the foreseeable future.)

Real property is primarily developed land with buildings, usually acquired by the Federal Government for a specific purpose. If you are interested in real property, contact the General Services Administration (GSA).  

Are any lands available free through homesteading? 

No. Congress repealed the Homestead Act in 1976 (except for Alaska, where it was repealed in 1986).  Fair market value is determined for each parcel that is offered. By law, no parcel can be sold for less than fair market value. 

Where are public lands located? 

Almost all are in the western states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. There are also small amounts in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

There are no BLM-managed public lands in Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont or West Virginia. 

How are public lands identified as potentially available for sale? 

The law states that the BLM can select lands for sale if, through land-use planning, they are found to meet one of three criteria: 1) they are scattered, isolated tracts that are difficult or uneconomic to manage; 2) they were acquired for a specific purpose and are no longer needed for that purpose; or 3) disposal of the land will serve important public objectives, such as community expansion and economic development.

What do the lands look like?

Land types vary widely. Some may be desert; some are rural. Some are small parcels of just a few acres; some are several hundred acres in size. 

Is any of the land suitable for farming?

Any agricultural potential would be clearly identified in the notice announcing the sale. Generally speaking, most public lands have little or no agricultural potential. 

On average, what does public land cost per acre?

There is no "average" cost. Each offered parcel is evaluated individually through established appraisal procedures, based on the value of surrounding parcels to determine fair market value. By law, no parcel can be sold for less than fair market value. 

How is the land actually sold?

The sale method is determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the circumstances of each particular parcel or sale. The BLM has three options: 1) modified competitive bidding where some preferences to adjoining landowners are recognized, 2) direct sale to one party where circumstances warrant, and 3) competitive bidding at public auction.  Sales can be conducted by oral bid, sealed bid, or a combination of both. A Sale Notice will specify the type of sale, the percentage of the full price that must be deposited with each bid, and the time period allowed for full payment.

Are there any preferences for veterans?

No laws currently exist allowing the BLM to give veterans any preference for land purchases.

How can I find out about land that is going to be sold?

The BLM office with jurisdiction over the area you're interested in can send you sale information as it is available. You can also write, call or visit them periodically. Use the map tool in the Contact Info block below/to the right to find the local BLM Field Office, or start by contacting the BLM State Office for the area. Information about scheduled sales is published and broadcast in local news media. More detailed information, such as land reports, environmental assessments, etc., is generally available online, or mailed upon request for a small fee to cover the cost of printing/copying.

Where are land sales held?

Sales are held either at the local BLM office or in another suitable public location near the lands being offered. Sales are not held in Washington, D.C. 

Are there any restrictions on who can bid on offered parcels?

Federal law states that the BLM can sell public land only to U.S. citizens or corporations subject to Federal or state laws.

Must I appear in person to participate in a sale?

Your personal appearance is not required. Even if only oral bidding is involved, you can be represented by an agent. But it is always to your advantage to examine a parcel in person to know exactly what you are bidding on. Details on procedures for a particular sale are specified in the sale notice.

How is payment made? Is there financing available?

A specified minimum percentage of the full price is required with each bid. The highest qualified bidder is eligible to buy the land; the deposits of unsuccessful bidders are returned. If you are the successful high bidder, the balance must be paid in full to the BLM within a set period of time before a deed or patent can be issued. Long-term financing must be arranged through private lenders.

Once the BLM issues my deed, can I do anything I want with the land?

Yes, within the terms of the deed, and subject to state or local restrictions. The sale notice will clearly specify any Federal reservations or conditions of sale. These might include reserving mineral rights to the Federal Government, or allowing some currently authorized uses, such as grazing, to continue for a certain period of time, or reserving rights-of-way or easements for powerlines, pipelines, etc. You are advised to review these conditions carefully so that you fully understand what your deed does and does not include. 

What about local taxes, zoning, etc.?

Once you receive title, the land is subject to all applicable state and local taxes, zoning ordinances, etc.

Are water, power and sewer service available on these parcels?

Check with the city or county involved to see whether such services are available.

Are there roads or easements that guarantee I can get to the property?

The sale notice will explain legal access to the property or any access restrictions. You are advised to check out the parcel before you buy, including finding out whether available access would meet your needs. 

What about tax delinquency sales?

The Federal Government has no involvement in sales of private land on which taxes have been delinquent, to satisfy the tax debt. The best source for information for these sales is the local county tax assessor in the area involved. 

What about state land programs?

State governments sometimes sell state-owned land. Information on these sales can be obtained through the state lands office in each state's capital.

Contact information

Locate the BLM Field Office with jurisdiction over the area(s) you are interested in. 

Open the National Map viewer

With the Administrative Units data layer enabled, click & zoom to the area of interest. Find the name of the local BLM Field Office in the pop-up, along with the link to online Contact Information for that office.


The Mineral & Land Records System (MLRS) now handles all land use authorizations and realty billing (including Alaska), land tenure, energy & minerals leasing, mining claims and more.