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The Desert Land Act became law on March 3, 1877, with the purpose of encouraging development in the arid and semiarid public lands of the western states. Individuals could apply for a “desert land entry” to reclaim, irrigate, and cultivate arid and semiarid public lands. The act offered 640 acres of land to any adult married couple who paid $1.25 per acre, which was four times the sum allowed by the Homestead Act of 1862, and promised to irrigate the land within a three-year period. A single individual received only 320 acres. The recipient had to pay twenty-five cents per acre at first and the remaining one dollar per acre when the irrigation had been completed. However, the federal government legislated a surfeit of other ...

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