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Transfer of Rights by Private Parties

Rights relating to public lands are generally transferable  provided that the statutory requirements are fulfilled.  Therefore, contracts that do not violate the letter or spirit of a relevant statute are enforceable.  A state cannot set aside the transfer of a public land made in good faith by a purchaser for the reason that there was no express warranty or language manifesting an intent that the purchaser is to have the land.  Accordingly, a purchaser’s assignee can have a patent that is lawfully issued in compliance with all conditions of a purchase.

The validity of an agreement to transfer public land after acquiring title largely depends upon the following:

  • the character of the contract in relation to federal and state law; and
  • the circumstances of the case.


Upon receiving a legal title on public land by a private person, s/he can alienate the same according to his/her wish.  S/he can even create a lien upon the property by assigning part of the equitable interest as security for an obligation and the lien may be enforced by a foreclosure[i].

However, where a person conveys government land to which s/he has an equitable claim only, a patent subsequently issued to the person will not come into effect for the benefit of the grantee by force of law, unless such land is described in the deed and patent[ii].

Any person who is qualified to make a transfer under the law can transfer his/her rights in the public land.  But, a grazing permit obtained from the federal government cannot be transferred or assigned.  Likewise, an assignment cannot be made to a corporation or association[iii].

[i] Jenkinson v. New York Finance Co., 79 N.J. Eq. 247 (Ch. 1911).

[ii] Prairie Oil & Gas Co. v. Jordan, 151 Okla. 147 (Okla. 1931).

[iii] 43 USCS § 324.

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