Land Use Policy in the United States Land Use Policy in the United States
By Howard W. Ottoson
2001/06 - Beard Books
1587980991 - Paperback - Reprint -  678 pp.

A marvelous compendium of the course that United States land policy had taken over the past 180 years.

Publisher Comments

Category: Real Estate

Of Interest:

A Short Historical Introduction to the Law of Real Property

Building American Cities

Easements and Servitudes

The Land System of the United States: An Introduction to the History and Practice of Land Use and Land Tenure

The Rise of the Community Builders

In 1962, marking the one hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act by President Lincoln, twenty nationally-known economists, historians, a political scientist, and a geographer were called upon to present papers at a symposium to appraise the course the United States land policy had taken over the past 180 years. The papers are compiled in this volume. Grouped into five major areas, they make engrossing and informed reading.


From Turnarounds and Workouts, April 15, 2002
Review by Gail Owens Hoelscher

In 1962, marking the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act by President Lincoln, 20 nationally recognized economists, historians, a political scientist, and a geographer presented papers at the Homestead Centennial Symposium at the University of Nebraska. Their task was to appraise the course that United States land policy had taken since independence. The resulting papers are presented in this book, grouped into five major areas: historical background; social factors influencing U.S. land policy; past, present and future demands for lands in the U.S.; control of land resources; and implications for future land policy.

This book begins with a summary of the Homestead Act, its antecedents, the arguments of its supporters and detractors, and its intent versus implementation. The Act offered a quarter section (160 acres) of public land in the West to citizens and intended citizens for a $14 filing fee and an agreement to live on the land for five years. The program ended in 1935.

Advocates claimed that frontier lad had no value to the government until it was developed and began generating tax revenue. Opponents feared the Act would lower land valued in the East and pushed for government sale of the land. In practice, states, territories, railroads and investors were able to set aside more land than was eventually handed over to the homesteaders.

One paper deals with land policy before 1862. From the start, the U.S. required that "all grants of land by the federal government should embody a description of the land not merely in quality, but in place as defined by relation to an actual survey." This policy avoided countless boundary disputes so vexing to other countries.

Perhaps most interesting are the social history chapters: Czechoslovakians pushing wheelbarrows across Nebraska, "Daughters and Sons of the Revolution…(living) next to…Mennonites," and "an illiterate…neighborly with a Greek and a Hebrew scholar from a colony of Russian Jews." Mail-order brides, "defectors from civilization," the importance of the Mason jar, the Jeffersonian dream of a nation of agrarian freeholders, and Santayana's observation that the typical American skitters between visionary idealism and crass materialism, all make for fascinating reading.

The land-use policy problems discussed certainly haven't been solved today. And, although land use conflicts in the U.S. haven't always been resolved equitably, "the big step forward taken by the United States during the last one hundred and fifty years in the age-long struggle of man towards the ideals of mutuality and equity has been the working out of a system wherein the sovereign superior who prescribes the working-rules for land use and decision making have become, himself, a collective of the citizenry."

A chapter is devoted to the arguments between the family farm ad the "sentiment against concentration of wealth in the hands of a few." The discussion of the Land Grant college system and its contribution to international development closes with a quote from Chester Bowles:

"Can we, now the richest people on earth, become creative participants in the unprecedented revolutionary changes of our era, changes that the most privileged people will oppose tooth and nail, but which for the bulk of mankind offer the hopeful prospect of a little more food, a little more opportunity, a doctor for their sick child, and sense of personal dignity?"


Howard Ottoson is a Emeritus Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska after serving as its Executive Vice President and Provost. He has memberships in different organizations, notable of which are the International Association of Agricultural Economics and the American Agricultural Economics Association. He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska


The Historical Background
History and Appraisal of US Land Policy to 1862 3
by Thomas Le Duc
The Homestead Act: Free Land Policy in Operation, 1862-1935 28
by Paul W. Gates
The Homestead in Perspective 47
by Mari Sandoz
Social Factors Influencing U.S. Land Policy
Homestead and Community on the Middle Border 65
by Carl O. Sauer
The Relevance of the Jeffersonian Dream Today 86
by John M. Brewster
The Political Forces 137
by Ross B. Talbot 175
The Economic and Institutional Forces
by W.B. Back
Past, Present, and Future Demands for Land in the United States
Land for Agriculture 203
by Harry A. Steel and Norman E. Landgren
The Use of Urban Land 231
by Lowdon Wingo Jr.
Land for Recreation 255
by Raleigh Barlowe
Resolving Land Use Conflicts 282
by MM Kelso
Control of Land Resources
Private Interest in Private Lands:  Intra- and Inter-Private 307
by Marshall Harris
Public Interest in Private Land: Private and Public Conflicts 336
by Kris Kristjanson and Raymond J. Penn
Public and Private Interest in Public Land 350
by Marion Clawson
Implications for Future Land Policy
Satisfying the Economic Demands for Natural Resources:  Some Recent Developments in European Land Policy 379
by Philip M. Raup
Satisfying the Economic Demands for Natural Resources: Some Policy Issues for the United States 400
by Gene Wunderlich
Developing Countries: Role of Land Policy in Providing Incentives for Development and Sharing more Widely the Benefits of Development 441
by Walter C. Neale
Making Policy for Land Use 462
by Wayne N. Aspinall
The Contributors 470

home    |    about us     |     contact us    |     related sites