Does the Federal Government ever sell public land? The
answer is yes. Lands identified as excess to the public's
and Government's needs or more suited to private ownership
are sometimes offered for sale. This brochure can help
explain the procedures and where to go for details.
First, it's important to understand the Federal
Government has two major categories of property which it
makes available for sale: real property and public lands.
Real Property is primarily developed land with buildings,
usually acquired by the Federal Government for a specific
purpose, such as a military base or office building.
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. This land is the
responsibility of the Department of the Interior's Bureau of
Land Management (BLM).
If it's public land you're interested in, read on. We
can help you. If you're interested in real property, you
should contact the General Services Administration (GSA).
GSA is responsible for selling developed, surplus property.
Addresses of the GSA Regional Offices are listed in the back
of this brochure.
If you're still reading, we can assume you're
interested in the possibility of buying public land from the
BLM. We receive numerous questions about our land sales, and
this brochure is designed to answer many of the questions most
commonly asked. Later on, we'll also tell you where you can
obtain more detailed information.
* Due to land entitlements to the State of Alaska and to
Alaska Natives, no public land sales will be conducted in
Alaska in the foreseeable future.
Q. Where are these public lands?
A. 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, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri,
Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South
Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin.
There are no public lands managed by the BLM in Connecticut,
Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine,
Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York,
North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina,
Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Q. Is any of this land available free through homesteading?
A. No. Congress has repealed the Homestead Act.
Q. What lands are available?
A. Although homesteading is a thing of the past, the BLM
does have lands suitable for purchase by private citizens.
These are lands that have been identified as unneeded by the
Federal Government or as better utilized in private
ownership. By law, these lands are made available for sale
at no less than fair market value.
Q. How are these lands selected for sale?
A. 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,
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
Q. What do the lands look like?
A. 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.
Q. Is any land suitable for farming?
A. Any lands with agricultural potential will be clearly
identified in the sale notice. However, most public lands
have little or no agricultural potential.
Q. On the average, what would public land cost per acre?
A. There is no "average" cost. Each parcel is evaluated
separately through established appraisal procedures, based
on the value of surrounding parcels. Fair market value is
determined for each parcel. No parcel can be sold for less
than fair market value.
Q. How is the land actually sold?
A. The BLM has three options for selling land: modified
competitive bidding where some preferences to adjoining
landowners are recognized, direct sale to one party where
circumstances warrant, and competitive bidding at public
auction. The sale method is determined on a case-by-case
basis, depending on the circumstances of each particular
parcel or sale.
Q. Are there any preferences for veterans?
A. No laws currently exist allowing the BLM to give veterans
any preference for land purchases.
Q. Where can I find out about land that is going to be sold?
A. Your best source is the BLM office with jurisdiction over
the area you're interested in. The BLM State Offices and
their jurisdictions are noted in the back of this brochure.
They can send you sale information. Sale information will
also be published and broadcast in local news media.
Q. Where are land sales held?
A. They are held near the area to be sold, either at the
local BLM office or in a suitable public location. Sales by
the BLM are not held in Washington, D.C.
Q. Are there any restrictions on who can bid on these parcels?
A. Federal law states that the BLM can sell public land only
to U.S. citizens or corporations subject to Federal or State
Q. Must I appear in person to participate at the sale?
A. Your personal appearance is not required, but it is
always to your advantage to examine the parcel and know
exactly what you are bidding on.
Sales can be conducted by oral bid, sealed bid, or a
combination of both. However, even if only oral bidding is
allowed, you can be represented by an agent.
Details on procedures for a particular sale are
specified in the sale notice available from the BLM. The
notice will specify type of sale, the percentage of the full
price that must be deposited with each bid, and the time
period allowed for full payment. The highest qualified
bidder is eligible to buy the land; the deposits of
unsuccessful bidders are returned.
Q. How is payment made? Is there financing available?
A. A certain minimum percentage of the full price is
required with each bid. 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
Q. Once the BLM issues my deed, can I do anything I want with
A. Yes, according to 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,
You are advised to review these conditions carefully so
that you fully understand what your deed does and does not
Q. What about local taxes, zoning, etc.?
A. Once you receive title, the land is subject to all
applicable State and local taxes, zoning ordinances, etc.
Q. Are water, power, and sewer service available on all parcels?
A. You should check with the city or county involved to see
if such services are available.
Q. Are there roads or easements that guarantee I can get to the
A. 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 if available
access meets your needs.
Q. I'd like to find out what parcels the BLM currently has listed
for sale. Where can I obtain that information?
A. The BLM State Offices listed on the following pages are
your best source. They can tell you what sales are currently
scheduled and what prospects are coming up. You can write,
call, or visit them periodically for latest details.
If a sale is currently scheduled, information can be
requested from the BLM describing the property and method of
More detailed information, such as land reports,
environmental assessments, etc., is also available upon
request for a small copy fee.
U.S.DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, FOREST SERVICE
New legislative authority will be necessary to allow
the sale of national forest system lands. If Congress
authorizes the sale of national forest system lands, details
can be obtained from the Forest Service, P.O. Box 96090,
Washington, D.C. 20090.
TAX DELINQUENCY SALES
Some local governments sell private land on which taxes
have been delinquent to satisfy the tax debt. The Federal
Government has no involvement in these sales. The best
source for information is the local county tax assessor in
the area involved.
STATE LAND PROGRAMS
State governments sometimes sell state-owned land.
Information on these types of sales can be obtained through
the State Lands Office in the State capital.
U.S.DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
222 W. 7th Ave., # 13
Anchorage, AK 99513-7599
3707 North 7th Street
P.O. Box 16563
Phoenix, AZ 85011
2800 Cottage Way, E-2841
Sacramento, CA 95825-1889
2850 Youngfield Street
Lakewood, CO 80215-7076
STATES EAST OF THE
MISSISSIPPI RIVER, plus
ARKANSAS, IOWA, LOUISIANA,
MINNESOTA, and MISSOURI:
Eastern States Office
7450 Boston Boulevard
Springfield, Virginia 22153
3380 Americana Terrace
Boise, ID 83706
MONTANA, NORTH DAKOTA,
and SOUTH DAKOTA:
222 N. 32nd Street
P.O. Box 36800
Billings, MT 59107
850 Harvard Way
P.O. Box 12000
Reno, NV 89520-0006
NEW MEXICO, KANSAS,
OKLAHOMA, and TEXAS:
1474 Rodeo Road
P.O. Box 27115
Santa Fe, NM 87502-0115
OREGON and WASHINGTON:
1300 N.E. 44th Ave.
P.O. Box 2965
Portland, OR 97208-2965
CFS Financial Center - 301
324 South State Street
P.O. Box 45155
Salt Lake City, UT 84145-0155
WYOMING and NEBRASKA:
2515 Warren Avenue
P.O. Box 1828
Cheyenne, WY 82003
OTHER LAND DISPOSALS BY FEDERAL AGENCIES GENERAL SERVICES
CONNECTICUT, ILLINOIS, INDIANA,
MAINE, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN,
MINNESOTA, NEW HAMPSHIRE,
NEW JERSEY, NEW YORK, OHIO,
PUERTO RICO, RHODE ISLAND,
VERMONT, VIRGIN ISLANDS, WISCONSIN
10 Causeway Street, Room 1079
Boston, MA 02222
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, FLORIDA,
GEORGIA, KENTUCKY, MARYLAND,
MISSISSIPPI, NORTH CAROLINA,
PENNSYLVANIA, SOUTH CAROLINA,
TENNESSEE, VIRGINIA, WEST VIRGINIA
401 West Peachtree Street
Atlanta, GA 30365
ARKANSAS, COLORADO, IOWA, KANSAS,
LOUISIANA, MISSOURI, MONTANA,
NEBRASKA, NEW MEXICO,
NORTH DAKOTA, OKLAHOMA,
SOUTH DAKOTA, TEXAS, UTAH,
819 Taylor Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
ALASKA, AMERICAN SAMOA, ARIZONA,
CALIFORNIA, GUAM, HAWAII, IDAHO,
NEVADA, OREGON, THE TRUST
TERRITORY OF THE PACIFIC ISLANDS,
525 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
U.S. Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
1849 C St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240
As the Nation's principal conservation agency, the
Department of the Interior has responsibility for most of
our nationally owned public lands and natural resources.
This includes fostering the wisest use of our land and water
resources, protecting our fish and wildlife, preserving the
environmental and cultural values of our national parks and
historical places, and providing for the enjoyment of life
through outdoor recreation. The Department assesses our
energy and mineral resources and works to assure that their
development is in the best interests of all our people. The
Department also has a major responsibility for American
Indian reservation communities and for people who live in
Island Territories under U.S. administration.