Jim Valentine: BLM land compared to BIA land
Nevada is more than 80% owned by the federal government consisting mostly of U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.
Additionally there is a significant percentage of land that is owned by Native American tribal entities, or land that is held in trust by the U.S. government on behalf of individual Indians. This land is controlled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, or BIA. When traversing rural Nevada lands it can be difficult to differentiate between BLM and BIA administrated land.
One big difference between the two that the public should be aware of is the right to traverse it. There are many dirt roads and trails throughout Nevada that cross these properties. It is legal for the public to go on BLM property as it is public land. You must “tread lightly” and abide by regulations, but the right to pass is there. The BIA allotment properties are really private property held in trust so unless there is an actual easement granted to the public it is illegal to trespass on the property. The land isn’t always identified or marked as No Trespassing allowed, but that could change in time.
In Nevada we have many public domain allotments. They are rare overall, but they are quite common in our area. Public domain allotments can be sold to another party provided the criteria called for by the BIA per Code of Federal Regulations 25 are met. You can buy an allotment property, but you should be careful about access, compliance with regulations and that it is properly approved. You might have a road to the property across other allotments, but you can’t get a prescriptive easement across them to access your property if you don’t have legal access as it is considered Federal property and you can’t get a prescriptive easement on public land.
Some conditions for buying allotment property include having a current appraisal at the time the property comes out of trust, competency established for the property owner(s), and appropriate terms and conditions. This is similar to the process for getting an easement across allotment property. It can be rewarding to both parties, but exhausting depending on the circumstances. Most allotments have fractional interest owners due to owners over the years dying without a will and the property being divided among their heirs. It can be difficult to get a majority agreement.
BLM property comes up for sale once in awhile. Transfers of BLM land usually include land near urbanization that would be better off in fee simple status to enhance the local area around it. They used to like to trade private rural inholdings for such property, but these days the usually auction it off. BLM sales are more common in Southern Nevada, but that could change over time as our Northern Nevada region receives more out of state “urban refugees”. It is difficult to identify a BLM parcel and make a deal like you can with BIA allottees.
Our Advice: While you should always respect the land when you are off road, it is especially important when you don’t know if you are on private, BLM or BIA land. Each has a different set of laws that apply to your presence thereon. Be aware that you might be approached and asked to leave. Do not assume you are on public land at that point, there is likely a reason you are being so directed. I have been on private ranch land with the owner when we were approached by people with guns camping on his land asking what we were doing. Discretion was the better part of valor and we left, but he hired security after that. Too bad, it could have been kept open if those and other trespassing people had treated it with courtesy and respect.
Know and respect where you are as you travel the open spaces of Nevada. Public land belongs to all of us – treat it well. Private land – would you want somebody camping in your front yard going to the bathroom? Of course not. Tread wisely – you might not be where you think you are other than knowing that everywhere you go there you are!
When it comes to choosing professionals to assist you with your real estate needs… Experience is Priceless! Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, 775-781-3704. firstname.lastname@example.org.