American Frontiers PLIADOIBLMUSDA FSGeography Action from NGSHondaColemanCoca-Cola
Search
About
Dispatches
The Trek
Exhibits


Public Lands Timeline
1492
1776
1780
1785
1700
1803
1812
1818
1819
1820
1845
1846
1850
1853
1862
1862 - 1871
1864
1867
1867 - 1879
1872
1879
1887
1891
1897
1902
1903
1905
1906
1916
1924
1934
1940
1946
1964
1965
1966
1968
1970
1971
1973
1976


Exhibits

Conservation

History: Those Who Came Before

Lifeways: Living with the Land

Public Lands: The Big Backyard

Nature: Changing Lands

Resources: Bountiful Lands

Geography of Freedom Gallery
Great quotations, great pictures, great public lands.

Public Lands Timeline
Great moments in public lands history.



Lessons
Geo Action

PLIC Museum
Home

 Exhibits: Public Lands Timeline


1492

1492 - 1776: Explorations and beginning of settlement of North America by four principal European powers: Spain, England, France, and Russia.


1776

1776: Birth of the United States of America.


1780

State cessions to United States, 1780-1802

Most of Trans Appalachia ceded to the federal government by those states which held claims to lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains.

1785

Land Ordinance of 1785 & 1787

Survey and settlement of public lands. Section 16 in each township was reserved to finance public education. Raised to two sections of land after 1848, then to four with the admission to statehood of UT, AZ, & NM.

1700

Land Law of 1796, 1800, 1804

Governing the sale of lands. Land was auctioned, first in 640-, then 320-, then 160-acre tracts.

1803

Louisiana Purchase

Doubled the size of the nation by including the region drained by the Mississippi's western tributaries.

1812

General Land Office created

Charged with the responsibility to "perform all acts and things touching or respecting the public lands of the United States."

1818

Treaty with Great Britain

Established the 49th Parallel as the US-British Canadian boundary, from Lake Superior to the Rocky Mountains.

1819

Treaty with Spain

Cession of Florida, adjustment of Louisiana Purchase boundary.

1820

Land Law of 1820

Discontinued sale of land on credit. Land could be purchased for as little as $1.25 per acre, in tracts as small as 80 acres. Un-auctioned land could be purchased in unlimited quantities.

1845

Annexation of Republic of Texas

Not carved out of the Public Domain.

1846

Oregon Compromise with Great Britain

Set the US-Canadian boundary along 49th Parallel from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

1850

United States' purchase from Texas

Of lands claimed by the Lone Star State in today's New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma; state and territorial boundaries adjusted.

1853

Gadsen Purchase from Mexico

Lands for southern transcontinental railroad route.

1862

Homestead Act

Free 160 acres to heads of households, widows, single persons. Patent issued after 5 years of residence on and cultivation of the property.

1862 - 1871

Railroad land grants

The government gave away 128 million acres between 1862 and 1871. At first, the railroads received five alternate sections on each side of the track for each mile of track laid and within ten miles on each side. Increased to 20 alternate sections after 1864. Public opposition ended the grants after 1871.

1864

Yosemite Act of 1864

Yosemite Valley is given to the state of California as a "public park" by Abraham Lincoln, setting the precedent for the national wilderness park idea.

1867

Alaska Purchase from Russia

Last addition to the Public Domain: 365 million acres.

1867 - 1879

The Great Surveys

Hayden (1867-1878), King (1867-1872), Wheeler (1869-1879), Powell (1869- 1879).

1872

Yellowstone National Park
General Mining Law of 1872

Yellowstone National Park
The world's first national park, set apart by Congess from the Public Domain, as a "public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people."

General Mining Law of 1872
"Valuable" mineral deposits were free and open to exploration and purchase. $100 assessment work yearly and at least $500 improvements before claims could be patented. Individual claimants limited to 20 acres; lode locations 1,500 feet long and 600 feet wide. Milling sites not to exceed 5 acres. Valid claims given status akin to private property. Development of minerals on public lands was given priority over potential other land uses.

1879

U.S. Geological Survey established

Charged with the responsibility for classifying public lands and examining the geologic structure and mineral resources and products of the public domain.

1887

Opening of Indian lands

Congress tried to satisfy would-be homesteaders' land hunger by giving farms to individual families on the reservations and opening the remaining reservation lands to non-Native settlers. The Great Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Chippewa lands in Minnesota, tribal lands in Oklahoma were opened.

1891

General Public Lands Reform Act of 1891
Forest Reserve Law of 1891
First Forest Reserve

General Public Lands Reform Act of 1891
Passed in response to widespread land fraud. Congress stopped auctioning land, and repealed the Timber Culture and Preemption acts. Desert Land entries reduced to 320 acres.

Forest Reserve Law of 1891
Last section of the General Public Lands Reform Act allowed the President to withdraw and reserve public lands wholly or in part covered by timber or undergrowth.

First Forest Reserve, 1891
Adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. By 1893, 16 more reserves were created, totaling 18 million acres.

1897

Forest Management Act of 1897

Gave the Secretary of the Interior authority to regulate occupancy and use within the reserves, develop mineral resources, provide fire protection, and allow timber sales.

1902

Reclamation Law of 1902

Provided for federal irrigation projects in western states and territories, using proceeds from the sale of public lands. Lands selected for reclamation were withdrawn from settlement but then opened for settlers under the Homestead Act after projects were completed. Limited to 160 acres. Irrigation projects were administered by Reclamation Service, later renamed Bureau of Reclamation.

1903

Pelican Island, Florida

First national wildlife refuge.

1905

Forest Service created

Within Department of the Interior, later moved to Department of Agriculture. To administer national forests which had originally been "forest reserves."

1906

Antiquities Act of 1906
Devil's Tower
Coal Lands withdrawal

Antiquities Act of 1906
For the protection of historic and prehistoric structures, historic landmarks and other objects of historic or scientific interest on the Public Domain. Authorized the President to create national monuments.

Devil's Tower
First national monument, by proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Coal Lands withdrawal
66 million acres by 1906. Government reserved mineral rights, first for coal, then for oil and gas, and now for many different minerals.

1916

National Park Service created
Oregon and California Revested Lands

National Park Service created
Unified the management of national parks, monuments, battlefields, etc.

Oregon and California Revested Lands
Congress revoked title to more than 2 million acres of land granted to the Oregon & California Railroad in 1869 for failure to abide by conditions of the grant. Another 93,000 acres are reclaimed in 1919 from the Coos Bay Wagon Road Grant. These revested lands were given to the General Land Office to administer because of ill will that Oregonians held toward the Forest Service.

1924

Gila Wilderness, 1924

Created the nation's first wilderness area. The Gila Wilderness extends over 558,000 acres in Gila National Forest, New Mexico.

1934

Taylor Grazing Act of 1934

In response to crowding and overgrazing of the Public Domain. As early as the 1870s there was more livestock than the range could support. The President withdrew all public lands that weren't already spoken for, in order to manage grazing. The first grazing district was established in Wyoming in 1935. District advisory boards were set up, Congress gave them legal status in 1939. The Grazing Service was created to administer the Taylor Act.

1940

Fish and Wildlife Service created, 1940

By the merger of the Bureau of Biological Survey and the Bureau of Fisheries.

1946

Bureau of Land Management created, 1946

By the merger of the Grazing Service and the General Land Office. To administer the lands in the Public Domain that were not otherwise designated, such as national forests and national parks.

1964

Land and Water Conservation Fund
Wilderness Act of 1964

Wilderness Act of 1964
Established to preserve lands "untrammelled by man." BLM lands were not originially included under the Wilderness Act.

Land and Water Conservation Fund
Established to fund the acquisition of outdoor recreation areas.

1965

Water Quality Act of 1965

Established quality standards for the nation.

1966

National Historic Preservation Act, 1966

To inventory, evaluate, and protect cultural resources.

1968

Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968

To preserve free-flowing rivers.

1970

National Environmental Policy Act of 1970

Made protection of environment a national priority and required all federal agencies to asses the impacts of their actions on the environment and mitigate adverse effects.

1971

Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971

Provided 40 million acres to Natives, 80 million acres withheld by the Department of the Interior as potential national parks forests, wildlife refuges, wild and scenic rivers.

1973

Endangered Species Act, 1973

Provided for federal listing of wildlife threatened with extinction and for the designation of critical habitat by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

1976

Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976

Congress established as policy to retain public lands in public ownership, to identify and inventory their resources, to provide for multiple and sustainable uses. Homestead Laws repealed everywhere but Alaska, where it ended in 1986.


TOP





All material copyright ©2002 - 2014, Public Lands Interpretive Association except photographs where ownership is otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.