public land

Also found in: Dictionary, Legal, Financial, Wikipedia.
Related to public land: Public Land Survey System

public land,

in U.S. history, land owned by the federal government but not reserved for any special purpose, e.g., for a park or a military reservation. Public land is also called land in the public domain. Except in Texas, which made retention of its public lands one of the conditions for joining the Union, there are no state public lands. Seven of the original states ceded their western lands to the federal government when they entered the Union. Additional public land was acquired with the Louisiana Purchase (1803), Florida (1819), Oregon (1846), the Mexican Cession (1848), the Gadsden Purchase (1853), and Alaska (1867). Almost as soon as public land was acquired the federal government began to dispose of it through grants to states, railroad companies, settlers (see Homestead ActHomestead Act,
1862, passed by the U.S. Congress. It provided for the transfer of 160 acres (65 hectares) of unoccupied public land to each homesteader on payment of a nominal fee after five years of residence; land could also be acquired after six months of residence at $1.
..... Click the link for more information.
, 1862), colleges (see land-grant colleges and universitiesland-grant colleges and universities,
U.S. institutions benefiting from the provisions of the Morrill Act (1862), which gave to the states federal lands for the establishment of colleges offering programs in agriculture, engineering, and home economics as well as in the
..... Click the link for more information.
), and cash sales. It was charged that large companies frequently acquired extensive holdings by dishonest means, and many of the new owners obtained considerable revenue by selling the land. A reaction to this easy policy set in toward the end of the 19th cent., and steps were taken to ensure the conservation of natural resourcesconservation of natural resources,
the wise use of the earth's resources by humanity. The term conservation came into use in the late 19th cent. and referred to the management, mainly for economic reasons, of such valuable natural resources as timber, fish, game, topsoil,
..... Click the link for more information.
 by withdrawing public lands from sale. Thereafter the government leased such land for grazing, lumbering, mining, the harnessing of water power, and other purposes, while maintaining regulatory control. By the 1970s there was considerable controversy over the need to make the best use of the public land's valuable resources while still preserving the land for future use and expanded recreational activities. Most of the nation's remaining public land is in the western part of the country, about half of it in Alaska.


See E. L. Peffer, The Closing of the Public Domain (1951, repr. 1972); W. C. Calef, Private Grazing and Public Lands (1960); V. Carstensen, ed., The Public Lands (1962); P. Gates, History of Public Land Law Development (1968); M. J. Rohrbough, The Land Office Business (1968).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
We know what needs to happen in Oklahoma, and that is making sure that public land stays in public hands."
There are 595,798 total acres of public land within a 60-minute drive of the city, and 551.88 miles of public shoreline within the same drive.
For decades, I have observed the poor landless families in Rajanpur Punjab, clearing public land around the river, which is flooded in summer, to cultivate in the fall and winter.
Never again should we allow public land to be grabbed and converted into private use.
In partnership with The Trust for Public Land, the national Cox Conserves Heroes program has donated more than USD 800,000 to environmental nonprofits over the past 10 years, and more than 200 volunteers have been honored.
The economic argument is particularly compelling; the book cites "meticulously calculated ROI studies" from the Trust for Public Land, indicating that the ROI for state land acquisition programs ranges from 400 to 1,100 percent.
In Defense of Public Lands: The Case Against Privatization and Transfer
Public land has produced tons of meat for my family and countless memories in the form of spectacular scenery and care-free days of allowing our hearts, minds and legs to ramble cross country.
Nandi county will evict thieves of grabbed public land if they don't surrender property by the expiration of a 21-day deadline.
Legion of sportsmen cannot access hundreds of thousands of acres of public land due to both history and geometry.

Full browser ?