General Land Reform Act (1891)

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  • Enacted by Congress and signed into law on March 3, 1891, this statute marked the beginning of U.S. legislative response to protecting federal lands—the vast acres of forests in the West—and lands being withheld from private ownership. Politically, the new law set the tone for more careful consideration of the preservation and conservation of lands and watersheds in the West. From the time of the Land Ordinance of 1785, which dealt with the settlement of the old Northwest Territory, to the onset of the American Civil War, the federal government was particularly generous in distributing public lands for agricultural development. In the East, the federal government had disposed of billions of acres of public land to encourage economic development. With the enactment of the Homestead ...

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