The Secretary of the Interior, in his judgment and discretion, is hereby authorized to sell, in the manner hereinafter provided, in this section, any of those lands situated in the State of Louisiana which were originally erroneously meandered and shown upon the official plats as water-covered areas, and which are not lawfully appropriated by a qualified settler or entryman claiming under the public land laws.
Any citizen of the United States who, or whose ancestors in title in good faith under color of title or claiming as a riparian owner, prior to February 19, 1925, placed valuable improvements upon or reduced to cultivation any of the lands subject to the operation of this section, shall have a preferred right to file in the office of the officer, as the Secretary of the Interior may designate, of the United States land office of the district in which the lands are situated, an application to purchase the lands thus improved by them at any time within ninety days from February 19, 1925, if the lands have been surveyed and plats filed in the United States land office; otherwise within ninety days from official notice to such claimant of the filing of such plats. Every such application must be accompanied with satisfactory proof that the applicant is entitled to such preference right and that the lands which he applies to purchase are not in the legal possession of an adverse claimant or in the actual possession of a person or persons who have improved the property and who have attempted to enter same in compliance with the laws and regulations of the United States land office.
Upon the filing of an application to purchase any lands subject to the operation of this section, together with the required proof, the Secretary of the Interior shall cause the lands described in said application to be appraised, said appraisal to be on the basis of the value of such lands at the date of appraisal, exclusive of any increased value resulting from the development or improvement thereof for agricultural purposes by the applicant or his predecessor in interest, but inclusive of the stumpage value of any timber cut or removed by the applicant or his predecessor in interest.
An applicant who applies to purchase lands under the provisions of this section, in order to be entitled to receive a patent, must within six months from receipt of notice of appraisal by the Secretary of the Interior pay to the officer, as the Secretary of the Interior may designate, of the United States land office of the district in which the lands are situated, the appraised price of the lands, and thereupon a patent shall issue to said applicant for such lands as the Secretary of the Interior shall determine that such applicant is entitled to purchase under this section. The proceeds derived by the Government from the sale of the lands hereunder shall be covered into the United States Treasury and applied as provided by law for the disposal of the proceeds from the sale of public lands.
The Secretary of the Interior is authorized to prescribe all necessary rules and regulations for administering the provisions of this section and determining conflicting claims arising hereunder.
All purchases made and patents issued under the provisions of this section shall be subject to and contain a reservation to the United States of all the coal, oil, gas, and other minerals in the lands so purchased and patented, together with the right to prospect for, mine, and remove the same.