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Title Examination of State and Federal Lands

Gregory R. Danielson, Mineral Title Examination III (1992)

The vast public land holdings in the western United States require a title examiner to have a working knowledge of the records maintained by the state and federal government.1 This paper describes the records available for examination of federal and state lands. This paper also discusses how the various records relate to each other and effect of the records so that you may determine the scope of your examination and the possible risks associated with relying upon particular records. For illustration purposes, this paper also discusses the procedures for examination of title to a federal oil and gas lease.

This paper relies heavily on the paper presented by Peter Wall at the 1982 Mineral Title Examination Institute.2 As with the previous presentations, our emphasis will be on federal oil and gas titles because the examination of title to mining claims will be addressed in another paper presented at this Institute.3 Although a proper examination of these record repositories requires extensive knowledge of the substantive law, a discussion of specific title problems and substantive issues is beyond the scope of this paper.4


The disposal of the lands owned by the United States of America began with an ordinance enacted in 1785 permitting the U.S. Treasury Department to auction public lands as a source of revenue and thereby creating