public domain lands

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Public domain lands include any land or interest in land owned by the United States and administered by the Secretary of the Interior through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Compare with public domain. The BLM timeline describes how the first public domain lands were lands that the Second Continental Congress, under the Articles of Confederation, convinced the states to cede to the federal government. According to the Public Land Foundation, two-third of the original 1.8 billion acres of U.S. public domain lands were transferred to individuals, corporations, and states.

Today, BLM maps show that the great majority of public domain lands are located in the Western States of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. 43 U.S.C. is the statutory title that governs the management of public lands, and there are currently many restrictions for activities that can occur on public lands. For example, 43 CFR § 3101.2-1, passed pursuant to 43 U.S.C., provides that “[n]o person or entity shall take, hold, own or control more than 246,080 acres of Federal oil and gas leases in any one State at any one time. No more than 200,000 acres of such acres may be held under option. . . [with exceptions for Alaska].” The BLM may part with public domain acts when the land use planning procedure established in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act determines that disposal of a particular parcel will serve the national interest.

[Last updated in December of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]