Yes, you can. You can buy land in just about any national forest. However, the U.S. Forest Service rarely sells plots of its own land. Instead, you can only buy existing plots of private property. These properties are highly sought after and expensive. Most “land sales agents” can help you find them.
Can I Buy Land in a National Forest?
An “inholding” is private property that is either completely surrounded by, or is adjacent to, a national forest, national park, or other government-owned lands. “Inholders” are people who own an inholding.
Before there ever was national forest lands, these lands had originally been granted by the federal government to private owners through the Homestead Act of 1862. Meanwhile, the National Forest system wasn’t created until 1891. Once the U.S. Government began drawing boundaries for national forests, they started the process of converting existing public lands into forests, as well as buying up adjacent private lands.
However, the U.S. Forest Service had limited funds to buy up private properties, and thus left many “holes” in their forest boundaries. Moreover, many land owners recognized that owning land in a national forest would increase their property value, and thus dug their heels in and refused to sell.
The U.S. Forest Service today continues to buy up inholdings in an on-going effort to fill those holes. However, inholders are not required to sell to the federal government. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service often loses out in bidding wars due to the high price of land. This is why the inventory of available inholdings continues strong today.
How to Buy Land in a National Forest
There are no special rules for buying an inholding. Land purchases go about the same as buying land anywhere else. However, you can expect to pay a high price for an inholding because they are extremely popular. And based on the current state of politics and society, more people are leaving cities to find land further away.
There are real estate professionals called, “land sales agents” that specialize in helping people buy inholdings. Ranch-inholdings.com is an example, as is LandHub.com. You can also just Google, “inholdings for sale”.
What Is It Like Living Next Door to a National Forest?
Most inholders will describe a love-hate relationship with the U.S. Forest Service. They love knowing they can walk out of their front door and into Mother Nature. They love the beautiful scenery and the sounds of wildlife.
However, they often describe the USFS as the “neighbor from Hell”. They constantly inspect their property line with inholders to point out encroachments, litter, and damaged fencing. They will often shut down roads leading into private properties, sometimes to the point of denying access altogether. Frequently they file lawsuits against inholders for various petty violations. Inholders often claim the USFS is doing all this to get them to sell.
Does the U.S. Forest Service Sell its Own Land?
Not very often, though it has happened before. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service has very limited authority in selling off parcels of its own land. What they have sold in recent years, however, are older administrative buildings and maintenance yards located near towns and highways. But even with this, they’ve only done so sparingly.
If anything, you are more likely to swap land with the U.S. Forest Service than purchase. Assuming you have a plot of land they want, the USFS may be willing to trade of parcel of theirs elsewhere.
Currently, there is no online service for listing Forest Service property. The U.S. Forest Service addressed this matter in an old article from 2002 entitled, “Does the Forest Service Sell Property?“.
More Information About Inholdings
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