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desert land act of 1877 and new mexico/arizona rainwater catchment legal questions.

 
Joel Cederberg
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http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/consrvbib:@OR(@field(AUTHOR+@3(U+S++Congress+++44th+++2nd+Session++))+@field(OTHER+@3(U+S++Congress+++44th+++2nd+Session++)))
http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/more/lands/desert_land_entries.html
http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/noc/business/eforms.Par.46135.File.dat/2520-001.pdf


I was unaware of this until this week, but apparently the homesteading act which was repealed by tricky dick nixon in way back when had a sort of ugly cousin called the desert land act. (links above)
anyway, apparently you can get up to 320 acres of land for 1.25 dollars an acre as long as special conditions pertain.
the land cannot have any claims on it
the land must have 0 useful mineral potential
the land must have 0 timber value
basically the land must be shitty desert wasteland. thats why its going for so cheap.

once such land is found, the person wanting the land has to get it surveyed out and give this along with a budget and some other documents and dirt samples to the local blm office. from what ive read there is a waiting list described as "large, or big" but also from what ive read, 60 percent of all desert land claims are in utah.
colorado new mexico, arizona, nevada, and idaho are also participating states, so i question the legitimate grandeur of such a waiting list.
because-

once all this has happened you must take it upon yourself to irrigate at least 1/8 of the total land you have claimed ( 40/320 acres ) within 4 years (there are cases where they will extend this). if you have only irrigated 20 acres of 320, it seems as though they can take away all land that has not yet been irrigated.
however, when done well, at the end of the 4 years, you get a patent for the land.


my question is then, if anyone could enlighten me on a few key issues.

from what i understand only utah and colorado have blanket bans on rainwater collection. this makes it sound as though arizona and new mexico have laws about rainwater harvesting, but few. from what ive studied, it seems as though since rainwater only contributes 3-15 percent of all ground water and surface water, its pretty much ok to harvest since it doesnt conflict much with the first come first serve water laws. is this a correct conclusion? im thinking of utilizing roof runoff into cisterns as well as creating water catching earthworks (they arent really holders, but they catch and hold water for a short amount of time).

im also wondering if anyone knows anything about the desert land act. what have you heard of it? is it one of those things where the government makes that you can have but really cant? a catch 22 of sorts?

also, if anyone is already doing something of this sort, it would be cool to pick your brain.

thanks for reading.
 
Len Ovens
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Joel Cederberg wrote:
I was unaware of this until this week, but apparently the homesteading act which was repealed by tricky dick nixon in way back when had a sort of ugly cousin called the desert land act. (links above)
anyway, apparently you can get up to 320 acres of land for 1.25 dollars an acre as long as special conditions pertain.
the land cannot have any claims on it
the land must have 0 useful mineral potential
the land must have 0 timber value
basically the land must be shitty desert wasteland. thats why its going for so cheap.

once such land is found, the person wanting the land has to get it surveyed out and give this along with a budget and some other documents and dirt samples to the local blm office. from what ive read there is a waiting list described as "large, or big" but also from what ive read, 60 percent of all desert land claims are in utah.
colorado new mexico, arizona, nevada, and idaho are also participating states, so i question the legitimate grandeur of such a waiting list.
because-

once all this has happened you must take it upon yourself to irrigate at least 1/8 of the total land you have claimed ( 40/320 acres ) within 4 years (there are cases where they will extend this). if you have only irrigated 20 acres of 320, it seems as though they can take away all land that has not yet been irrigated.
however, when done well, at the end of the 4 years, you get a patent for the land.


Wow... I can't answer the legal questions. There are some comments I could make though. Irrigation probably means using a well or paying to get some from a river/canal. I am not sure anyone could stop you from catching rain water without tramping all over the place. But to prove you were irrigating you would have to have proof of where you got it. So you would at least need a well that had water in it. Once you had that, you could supplement that water with other means. The idea of irrigating kinda sounds like it means you will grow something. Does what you grow have to be for sale? can it be animals? Does it even have to be something to eat? These things would decide the amount of water needed to irrigate 1/8th of the land and the cost of pumps etc.

Along with this, the best known land reclaimer is trees. If you plant trees, does the land have "timber value"? I guess you could plant trees with no value, but does that help prove you are making good the land?

Does the 1/8 have to be all in one place or can there be bits of it spread through the land? Like 40 1 acre bits that are irrigated.

Have you seen "greening the desert"? You may get an idea where I am going. If you could plant the right things in the right place... mainly trees. The land should irrigate itself. So you should not have to show proof of adding water, the greening should be proof enough.

I am not a US citizen and so would not be able to do this myself. However, if I was, I think I would be trying to reclaim the whole property. Because there is a time limit, I would be living in a camper/trailer/whatever was cheap, and spend the money I didn't have to spend on land on whatever was needed for earth moving and tree planting. The bigger the reclaim effort, the more you will control the local environment (temperature and rainfall) so two or three like minded people next to each other would be even better. (where you would find these people is another question) Anyway, some kind of polyculture is the best answer. It would include both plants and animals. I think you would come close to spending what you would spend just buying land of the same size somewhere else, but, no matter where you buy, you are looking at improving the land through similar means, buying outright just means you can go a little slower... maybe. In such a case it may be worth while having a consultant set things up for a fee. Or helping you choose the land.

Anyway, I asked a lot of questions because I think these are areas you need to research before looking. You don't have to get a whole half section either, I know with the low cost that would be temping, but count the whole cost and don't go over board.
 
Wayne Mackenzie
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There are restrictions on how much area you can irrigate in Az. My land is in Cochise county and is not in an "Active Management Area" or "Irrigation Non-Expansion Area" & I'm only allowed to irrigate 2 acres from my domestic well. This applies to every lot regardless of size. To irrigate more, I/you would need to apply for an agriculture/commercial type of well. I've never done that, but I bet there is red tape.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Howdy Joel
Well, I looked into this back in the 1980's.
I was in Wyoming, where there is lots of BLM land.
I had located a canyon near town that had a year round stream running through it.
I contacted the state water board and they said I could buy the water rights from that stream.
I went into the local BLM office with the info on desert land entries and they said there was no such thing.
I visited them half a dozen times over several months, each time I was told there was no such thing.
Finally I told them that my lawyer would be calling about this and they finally admitted that this was a real program.

The lesson I learned was that the BLM folks do not want you to make a claim, nor to have this land.
After all what would they do if we all made claim to "their" land? They would lose their jobs.
This is the real reason that the homestead act was revoked.
They will erect all sorts of barriers and excuses to keep you from moving forward.
They also do not want to help you with the paperwork or information.
So in the end I did not feel that I had the energy to fight these people.

I do know it is real and it has been done. You will have to have your ducks in a row and probably a good lawyer.
From my research I know that there were lawsuits over this. One of the things was that, grasses that could be used for animal feeds were OKed as a "crop".
So rather than having to produce water intensive fruits or veggies you would only have to be able to raise grasses.
The reason this is important is that you would be able to Patent you claim quickly and get out from under the system.
The sooner you can do a final patent the better off you will be.
Then you would be able to do your own thing.

You must spend 3 dollars per acre per year making improvements. This includes dams and canals. It just so happens that keyline design fits perfictly with this.
You must read the rules very closely, you must follow the rules to a T. There are ways to get each part completed if you are willing to work at it.

There are also special rules which apply to veterans.

I would love for you to move forward with this and acheive what I did not have the energy to achieve!
Let me know how it turns out.

http://cfr.regstoday.com/43cfr2520.aspx#43_CFR_2521p5

Your local library may have a copy of the CFR's ( code of federal regulations) You will find the act in there also.
 
Joel Cederberg
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The New Mexico Office of the State Engineer supports the wise and efficient use of the state's
water resources; and, therefore, encourages the harvesting, collection and use of rainwater
from residential and commercial roof surfaces for on-site landscape irrigation and other on-site
domestic uses.

The collection of water harvested in this manner should not reduce the amount of runoff that
would have occurred from the site in its natural, pre-development state. Harvested rainwater
may not be appropriated for any other uses (NM OSE, 2004).

http://www.cap-az.com/Portals/1/PublicInformation/AwardForResearch/Gaston--Rainwater-Harvesting--May-2010--CAP.pdf

it seems to me as though the states acknowledge the use of rainwater from a cistern as a form of irrigation. there were a couple other legalish (.gov, .org) type sites that eluded to rainwater catchment being a type of irrigation. wayne, you are allowed to irrigate 2 acres with your well, but do they put a cap on the amount you can irrigate with rainwater?
len, yes, i do plan on growing many trees. of course this is all planning for the future and therefore isnt very tangible at the moment. my wife and i are attempting to get some jobs out west and make (10$/hour x 2 people x 8 hours a day x 5 days a week) 800 $ a week for a season and then get to it with 8 to 10 grand as a budget and a spartan lifestyle to support our under budgeted dream. we plan to basically facilitate what naturally grows. mesquites, mormon tea, creosote bush, prickly pear and other cacti and succulents. hopefully have a lot bee hives. well see what comes.
from what i understand the products made on such lands do not have to be for sale, however you have to give the blm a budget before they authorize the project, so it wouldnt hurt to sell things at least on paper.
as for animals, i can only assume that they would expect hay fields to be made of the desert, but one could keep animals as well as have a mesquite grove or something. and also, i do not think i recall them stipulating edibility. it could be white sage and lavendar you grow and distill for essential oils. once irrigated and planted, the land will have timber value, but thats understandable. and appearantly the 1/8 can be in multiple places. i think. i am contemplating claiming 80 acres, i think that 10 acres of irrigation is a modest and achievalble goal under the right circumstances. and i wouldnt know what to do with 320 acres.
ill try not to go overboard.
thanks for the help.
 
Joel Cederberg
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miles, i just saw your post, but after writing one right now i dont have time to reply, thank you for the info. i have a lot of questions.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Interesting thread - Joel please keep us posted as you move forward!
 
Wayne Mackenzie
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Joel, I've never heard of a cap on rainwater use. I've been meaning to get in touch with A.D.W.R. & find out if that 2 acre deal applies to drip irrigation as well. Seems to me that drip should not be included in any irrigation regulations that were directed toward conventional irrigating practices, but I sure wouldn't bet on it.
 
Walter McQuie
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Fascinating thread Joel. I especially appreciate the info about the attitude of the NM Office of State Engineer. I would note that they speak of on-site domestic uses. I'm not sure what part of the 10 irrigated acres of 80 claimed acres you propose come from rainwater collection--which I assume is catching off roof like surfaces and stored in cisterns--but would imagine irrigation on that scale will be considered commercial rather than domestic use. I've always felt that collecting water off roofs and using it to grow more plants is unlikely to reduce the water entering the few streams where there are water rights at issue. In most locations around here where people have houses, that water would never make it to a stream high enough up its watershed that it is a source of irrigation water. Less cryptically, it is streams that carry snow melt from the mountains that have enough flow to support the irrigation that led to the establishment of someone's water rights. Outside of the Rio Grande valley, that irrigation also occurs close to the mountains. BLM land is mostly not near the mountains. So your rainwater was never going to get to a stream where most of the water rights are.

I've understood that BLM land was homesteadable before BLM was established in the thirties. The idea behind the homestead laws was that the government wanted to encourage the productive use of our land. BLM land wasn't homesteaded for a reason. It is nice to believe that with permaculture techniques can make some of this land productive for humans, but the paradigm of showing you've made the land productive through irrigation is problematic from a permaculture standpoint.

There are some practical issues as well. I'm not sure how much water you'll need to irrigate whatever you decide to grow. A thousand square feet of roof can supply about 500 gallons per inch of rain, a little more with ideal conditions. With an average of 8 or 10 inches a year, that's not a lot of irrigation water. Ideally you can find land with a significant watershed above it and can establish enough earthen storage to irrigate 10 acres, at least when you get the kind of rain events that fill your catchments up. We had several of those this year and even more in 2006 or so, but none in the interim. A couple of those years we had average precipitation; often average precipitation comes in a regular series of small rain events--great for supporting plants during the monsoon, but not what's needed to refill tanks. Storage in the soil, protecting that moisture from evaporating, choosing the right plants to grow are all better adapted to typical conditions in the high desert than setting up efficient drip irrigation systems.

I wish you good luck and hope that you'll post more about your plans and what you learn as you pursue them.
 
Andrew Parker
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I also tried doing this in the early eighties. I was told that, though the law was still on the books, the administrative barriers were insurmountable. In other words, it isn't going to happen.

Also, development of rainwater catchment does not meet the water requirement, as defined by the BLM. Sorry.

You may want to look into prospecting, or buying an existing mining claim. I don't know if they could keep you from growing things on your claim, as long as you met the mining requirements.

Apparently, there was a group of hippie-types back in the eighties that had a mobile commune that camped out on claims in the Raft River Mountains of extreme Northwest Utah.

Mind you, the current regime is none too keen on folks using federal land for personal gain, unless you are putting in a wind or solar farm, and they are certainly not going to let go of any of it.

Another option is to look for state land for sale or lease.

For runoff agriculture, the 8 to 1 ratio is workable in much of the West. You may not run into any rights issues as long as the water you are going to use is falling on your property. The restriction is only in how much water you are impounding, not how much percolates into the soil.

I like the idea of using runoff agriculture and I hope you are successful in finding a place to practice it.
 
Joel Cederberg
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miles:
do you think the blm would have been more friendly to you were there no stream on your property and were the land a lot less pretty/more barren/ugly/ useless?
what sort of barriers and excuses has the blm erected to keep you from moving forward?
the people who have done it, do you know them personally or anecdotally?
do you think that different blm offices would behave differently? as in, would maybe nevada be more welcoming of people undertaking such pursuits and washington less so? (this question is also generally directed at anyone)

walter:
do you know of or have any links about the water regulations for commercial irrigation in this regaurd? ideally I would be catching rainwater off roofs for irrigation, but i would also be utilizing earthworks and drought resistant natives to supplament that. i would be irrigating the whole property with caught rainwater.
" Storage in the soil, protecting that moisture from evaporating, choosing the right plants to grow are all better adapted to typical conditions in the high desert than setting up efficient drip irrigation systems. " ----i agree fully

andrew:
could you supply more details of your experience?
how long and hard have you tried and researched this? what administrative barriers have you encountered?
what is the water requirment defined by the blm? who told you rainwater did not meet the irrigation requirements?
what if i were to claim 5 acres? would it not cut through alot of this red tape? (this one is directed at everyone)
did you attempt to do this in utah? from what i understand they are the most unfriendly state to rainwater catchment.
ive already looked into buying mineral rights and mining claims, unfortionatly building permenant structures on the land (like cisterns) is prohibited. of course, if this desert land act thing falls through,i might just revert back to mining claims and go nabatean on their asses and just dam up a whole bunch of wadis and live in a tent on their lands.

here are some references about irrigation ive found in the cfr:
(* Reclamation requires conducting water in adequate amounts and quality to the land so as to render it available for distribution when needed for irrigation and cultivation
*Irrigation requires the application of water to land for the purpose of growing crops.
* An entry of lands within an irrigation district which the Secretary of the Interior or his delegate has approved under the Act of August 11, 1916 (39 Stat. 506; 43 U.S.C. 621-630), is limited to 160 acres. ----->would this here indicate rainwatr unsuitable for irrigation in that the lands bust be within an irrigation district?
*(b) Acceptable expenditures. (1) Expenditures for the construction and maintenance of storage reservoirs, dams, canals, ditches, and laterals to be used by claimant for irrigating his land; for roads where they are necessary; for erecting stables, corrals, etc.; for digging wells, where the water therefrom is to be used for irrigating the land; for stock or interest in an approved irrigation company, or for taxes paid to an approved irrigation district through which water is to be secured to irrigate the land; and for leveling and bordering land proposed to be irrigated, will be accepted. Expenditures for fencing all or a portion of the claim, for surveying for the purpose of ascertaining the levels for canals, ditches, etc., and for the first breaking or clearing of the soil are also acceptable.
*(e) Showing as to irrigation system. The final proof must show specifically the source and volume of the water supply and how it was acquired and how it is maintained. The number, length, and carrying capacity of all ditches, canals, conduits, and other means to conduct water to and on each of the legal subdivisions must also be shown. The claimant and the witnesses must each state in full all that has been done in the matter of reclamation and improvements of the land, and must answer fully, of their own personal knowledge, all of the questions contained in the final-proof blanks. They must state plainly whether at any time they saw the land effectually irrigated, and the different dates on which they saw it irrigated should be specifically stated. ----->this one here is particularly vague as to if rainwater is an approved method or not
*f) Showing as to lands irrigated and reclaimed. While it is not required that all of the land shall have been actually irrigated at the time final proof is made, it is necessary that the one-eighth portion which is required to be cultivated shall also have been irrigated in a manner calculated to produce profitable results, considering the character of the land, the climate, and the kind of crops being grown. (Alonzo B. Cole, 38 L.D. 420.) The cultivation and irrigation of the one-eighth portion of the entire area entered may be had in a body on one legal subdivision or may be distributed over several subdivisions. The final proof must clearly show that all of the permanent main and lateral ditches, canals, conduits, and other means to conduct water necessary for the irrigation of all the irrigable land in the entry have been constructed so that water can be actually applied to the land as soon as it is ready for cultivation. If pumping be relied upon as the means of irrigation, the plant installed for that purpose must be of sufficient capacity to render available enough water for all the irrigable land. If there are any high points or any portions of the land which for any reason it is not practicable to irrigate, the nature, extent, and situation of such areas in each legal subdivision must be fully stated. If less than one-eighth of a smallest legal subdivision is practically susceptible of irrigation from claimant's source of water supply and no portion thereof is used as a necessary part of his irrigation scheme, such subdivision must be relinquished. (43 L.D. 269.)
(the following comments are just general ramblings and questions to anyone)
rain is not even mentioned once in the whole desert land act. neither is rainwater mentioned, neither in a way indicative of it being an appropriate method of irrigation or an inappropriate one.
has anyone tried this in nevada? nevada is the only state you do not even have to be a resident of in order to claim a desert land act, it might just be the most lax of all the states participating in this program.
are blm office workers dicks in general, or ar they just dicks when you mention the desert land acts?
does anyone know/ have any geusses as to why the federal register last updated this law on june 13 1970?
thanks for reading. post any useful links you might have about this subject please.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Joel. You asked...
do you think the blm would have been more friendly to you were there no stream on your property and were the land a lot less pretty/more barren/ugly/ useless? what sort of barriers and excuses has the blm erected to keep you from moving forward?

I think they are Bureaucrats , (noun 1. an official of a bureaucracy . 2. an official who works by fixed routine without exercising intelligent judgment) The ones I dealt with did not want to help me in any way. I just felt like I did not have the energy to fight them through the whole process. It was my lack of energy that made the decision. I look back now, after dozens of years, and wish I would have just kept trying. I just gave up, which is what they are hoping we will do. They had no idea what the land looked like. They may not have even gone to the property during the whole process. I think it is all about the paperwork for them. So if you have two people who will help you fill out all of the paperwork, saying that you have done the work, it may be easier than we think.


the people who have done it, do you know them personally or anecdotally?

When I was researching it I ran across articles that showed it had been done, mostly in Idaho , if I remember correctly. I never tried to contact any of them.

do you think that different blm offices would behave differently? as in, would maybe nevada be more welcoming of people undertaking such pursuits and washington less so? (this question is also generally directed at anyone)

Maybe, I know that the state water guy in Wyoming is awesome. He wants people to use the water. But here in Colorado water is a nightmare! So you might just get started and see what the first few contacts are like. I am sorry to have been so negative before. I really would like to know someone who can get this done. I think once it is done it would be of great help to others. I would love to see most of the BLM land being used in a permacultural way. So please give it a try and lets see if someone can get it done!

As far as the written rules go, that you have quoted above, I think the key is to get started and work your way through the paperwork. If you have two people who will put their names on the paperwork saying that you are growing crops, irrigating, etc. I think they would almost have to let you have the land.

Again it might be that it just takes someone willing to jump through the hoops to get past all of the bullshit.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Andrew Parker
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I did not take notes but if memory serves me, after 33 years, the person I spoke with was very knowledgeable, respectful and frank. He understood clearly what I was proposing and he brought out the pertinent documentation to show me that the powers that be, in their infinite wisdom, did not agree with me.

A thorough reading of the law is insufficient to understand what you are up against. You need to have a copy of the rules that have evolved in the implementation of the law.

The two major obstacle that were pointed out to me were: 1. as by then all surface water had already been claimed, administrators interpreted the law to mean undeveloped groundwater sources; 2. administrators determined that they must designate areas eligible for development, and at that time, there were no such areas.

I was told that I had the right to proceed under the law and challenge the rules, but that it would be a lengthy and expensive process.

I think you would be better served to shop for property that would be appropriate for your plans. Desert land with no water rights or wells can be inexpensive -- or not. If you want to live on it, stick to jurisdictions that will grant an occupation permit with a cistern.
 
Joel Cederberg
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http://water.library.arizona.edu/body.1_div.17.html ---> so if i understood this properly, in the state of arizona you are not allowed to be dependent upon percolating waters for reclamation because of how the state defines prior appropriation. therefore, in arizona one must buy the rights to water in order to reclaim land.
from what i understand you must purchase the right to use any water found in a channel with a definable bed and banks.
how does buying water rights work? it doesnt have to be a full on year round stream does it? could i buy the water rights for an erosion gully? would i need to?

andrew, administrators designating areas available for development sounds like a wrench in the gears for sure.
however, i have not found anything that would elude to this. i will have to look into it more.
as for all the surface water being claimed, im not sure how i feel about that.

when you say " You need to have a copy of the rules that have evolved in the implementation of the law." are you referring to the amendments to the desert land act?
i havent found any cheap land anywhere. it seems theres nothing out the cheaper than 1000 dollars an acre. unless you buy in bulk.

miles, the good thing about a bureaucrat is that theres nothing personal. its like how a gas station employee wont sell cigs without id. what concerns me it the idea that an administrator designates the areas to be developed. not sure how that would play out. probably by them informing me that my chosen land is not in a designated area for a desert land act entry and then never give me a list of places that are designated.
it seems from that link you sent about desert land entries that idaho had the most entries and land given out, but i couldnt make heads or tales for sure. its a very vague layout filled with numbers with no descriptions.
hopefully it is just jumping through alot of hoops. however, i do not plan on using the assistance of a lawyer. so who knows how far ill take this.

its a shame our government is not for us and instead seems to want us all huddled up in cities eating subpar food and working our lives away for slave wages. (personal view)

 
Walter McQuie
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Joel Cederberg wrote:http://water.library.arizona.edu/body.1_div.17.html ---> so if i understood this properly, in the state of arizona you are not allowed to be dependent upon percolating waters for reclamation because of how the state defines prior appropriation. therefore, in arizona one must buy the rights to water in order to reclaim land.
from what i understand you must purchase the right to use any water found in a channel with a definable bed and banks.
how does buying water rights work? it doesnt have to be a full on year round stream does it? could i buy the water rights for an erosion gully? would i need to?


Just on a quick reading, the document you have quoted might be an illuminating piece in the whole puzzle you are trying to solve, but it is not enough on its own to reach any conclusions. It appears to be a committee recommendation concerning a bill to amend the Desert Land Act--a proposed federal statute that may or may not have been enacted into law. The purpose of the proposed amendment was to allow individuals who had already made claims under the act in Arizona to be treated the same as those who had made claims in other states/territories despite a unique feature in Arizona Law. Several cases are discussed as they relate to the reasons why the amendment was proposed. It tells you something about the state of the law in 1955, but without knowing the outcome of the bill or whether Arizona Law has changed in the interim, or whether the Desert Land Act was otherwise amended, and numerous other things I haven't thought of, you can't tell what the requirements for a current claim are. As I say it did appear to me that even if enacted it would have only applied to claims already made.

Water rights are creatures of state law, but there are broad doctrines applicable (with some variance among states) in the Western US. One doctrine would be use it or lose it. Under such a doctrine an owner of water rights could lose that right by failing to make use of the water. A corollary concept would be that water rights only exist where there is useable water. It is my observation that in this neck of the woods someone owns the rights to the water in any stream that carries water through enough of the spring--it all comes from melting snow in the mountains--that it is useful for either watering cattle or irrigating hay or alfalfa. The creek I live on carries snow melt for a couple of months most years. The landowner a mile up the valley uses it all. The creek is an arroyo--deep narrow dirt sided canyon--by the time it gets here and then it passes onto a section of BLM land. The only part of that parcel that is not too steep to rule out irrigation is at least 60 or 80 feet above the arroyo. If one was to buy those rights it would cost a lot to build an infrastructure to use the water and it is possible that very little of it would make the 1+ mile journey to your claim. None made it to my neighbor last year and it won't again this year unless we get a lot more snow soon.

Joel Cederberg wrote:when you say " You need to have a copy of the rules that have evolved in the implementation of the law." are you referring to the amendments to the desert land act?


Statutes that require administration by an agency typically give the agency authority to write rules and regulations concerning the nuts and bolts of administration. They are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations which is as available as the statutes themselves. Happy researching.
 
Bill Hinkley
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Sorry if this reposts my computer froze up.

Joel, if you are looking for cheap desert land its probably easiler to buy than to fight the government. There are quite a few areas where you can find land for under $1000 an acre. Its not prime land but it sounds like you are ok with that.

San Luis Valley Colorado. You can get 5 acres for around $3500 cash. Or cheap finance. Colorado is a nightmare for water harvesting so be prepared for that.

Eureka County Nevada will have lots for sale for really cheap occasionally. I saw 10acres for $2600 a few weeks ago. They do allow rain rain harvesting and seem to have very lax or not enforced building codes. Mining is big in that area so rain water is probably a safer bet than ground water.

I know eastern Oregon I think the Christmas valley area has cheap land not sure about much else.

There are also a few counties in northern Arizona and western Texas with cheap land options.

I'm looking at doing the same thing this summer after all my debts are paid and I have some money. Rain harvesting for house water, earthworks and swales to increase water to my plants and as many edible native and desert hardy species as I can fit on to my property. I'm looking into area with low populations and no building codes. I'm hoping I can be out away from everyone so that the governement has no reason to bother me. And if they do come, I'm going with the mantra "Its easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission."
 
Ann Torrence
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Joel Cederberg wrote:when you say " You need to have a copy of the rules that have evolved in the implementation of the law." are you referring to the amendments to the desert land act?

Congress passes a law. The agency that has to implement the law writes regulations to administer the details Congress couldn't be bothered to work out. Proposed regs get published for comment, and then they are "the rules." CFRs or Code of Federal Regulations. BLM is under 43 CFR. Google it. Then hire an attorney if you want to pursue this quixotic battle.

One reason why the BLM doesn't want to bother with selling you land is that the land isn't just sitting there vacant. It's almost all leased out for grazing. Say you claim your 80 acres. They now have to revise that lease, which is probably for thousands of acres going back decades in the same families (some of whom are cousins to the very BLM agent you are trying to persuade) to exclude your little parcel. And you had better come up with the bucks to survey and fence that land, and the energy to patrol it. Cowboys and fencing tools, just saying the range wars were real and deadly.

Here's my figuring: you spend at least 2 years fighting the BLM to get the land, then 4 years with someone on your back, wishing you'd go away if only so that they don't have to go through the process again with another knucklehead greenhorn who won't make it a year (in their view). You have blown what little cash you have on fencing and irrigation with no money left to fight if on the 47th month, someone cuts your irrigation supply and the BLM sees fit to disapproves your claim. Too risky for me.

Or, you work hard an extra year or two, save your pennies, buy the land free and clear and do what you want without the feds being able to interfere. In the meantime, you start a nursery on whatever bit of land you can rent, or pots on a concrete driveway if you have to, so that when you get your land, you have your trees already paid for. I figure my plan gets you solid title on your land 2, maybe 3 years earlier, with trees in the ground on near equal footing.

In Utah, the state owns school trust lands that are often traded out with BLM lands to consolidate management objectives. I know sometimes they get sold off-a friend bought 40 acres some years ago near Moab. No water rights, and Utah is, as you correctly pointed out, draconian in its water catchment rules (although you can have a 2500 gal cistern now). The school trust lands are supposed to generate income, so the state agency is more willing to deal. I have no idea if AZ or NM has such a thing, but those lands won't be advertised like private land.

The other thing about land (and water) around here is that everything is for sale, all the time, even if there's not a for sale sign up. If it were me, I'd settle on a general location (one with near a market for the things you want to sell!), and then spend a lot of time on the ground because that's how cheap land gets sold, not on that interweb thingee that old widows of cowboys can't work. And if you have a county or two in mind, find out who's delinquent on taxes and make them an offer. The taxes hadn't been paid on our place for three years when I bought it. That's published in our local paper.

Good luck. There's nothing quite like holding the title to your land in your own hands.
 
Ardilla Esch
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Joel already posted about NM OSE's stance on rainwater catchment.

I'd add that some counties in NM require that new residential construction include rainwater catchment. Santa Fe County is that way (and I think a few others). Santa Fe's ordinance specifies the percentage of roof area the catchment must address and the size of cisterns/barrels for particular circumstances.

http://www.santafecountynm.gov/userfiles/file/waterconservation/Water_Harvesting_Ordinance.pdf
 
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