Investing In Land: Buying Land in National Parks
Rangers are not the only ones lucky enough to live in America’s national parks. Currently there are 11,640 parcels of private land located inside national parks – about three percent of the property inside park boundaries. The total acreage up for potential sale is more than four million acres.
Back in 1964 the United State Congress (Democrat-controlled under Lyndon Johnson) passed the Land and Water Conservation Fund which funneled monies obtained from offshore drilling licenses into the National Park Service to buy up private lands when they came on the market. The war chest added up to about one billion dollars a year. But today in cash-strapped Washington almost three-fourths of that money is channeled into other programs.
The result is that the Park Service often loses out in spirited bidding for choice properties. An estimated $2 billion worth of land targeted by the federal government for acquisition comes onto the market in a typical year and the shrinking budget can only buy a small fraction of that land.
The private land is there because the landowners predated the creation of the parks; often they were historic mining claims that have been in the families for generations. Private land inside national parks is called inholding. When inholdings come on the market the owners may have sympathies about having the Park Service acquire the land but just as often any best offer will take the deed. If the asking price is too rich for the federal government you may find yourself bidding against non-profit trust funds.
So what can you do with if you purchase an inholding in one of America’s national parks? Well, you can hold the land as an investment figuring that a hunk of Zion National Park or Glacier National Park will not likely go down in value in the coming years. As the laws stand now you have the right to sell inholdings to anyone you wish, as fundamental a right as private American landowners can have.
You can also elect to be an active steward of the land, serving as caretaker for historic structures that may exist on the property. But you are also free to develop your private land, a course of action that will give you one of the most spectacular backyards in the country but not win a lot of friends.