Editor’s note: This week’s Garden Spot column was written by Maggie Cooper, wife of regular columnist Jay Cooper.
Land ownership is, and has been, the dream for generations of Americans, and in reality, the dream of people all over the world. Some residents of Tooele Valley may have chosen to live here because the opportunity to own their own home and land in Tooele is more affordable than on the other side of the mountains. That’s what brought us from Arizona to Tooele Valley in 2001. When we heard our company was moving to Utah, we told the realtor to find us the most rural place to live that was 30 minutes or less from downtown Salt Lake City and here we are 16 years later in Erda. We love our home and land as well as our neighborhood and the many neighbors we now call dear friends.
But it wasn’t always possible for individuals to own land. Laws regarding land ownership can be traced back to Roman times. Through the Dark Ages, under Saxon monarchs, land was the dominant source of personal wealth. However, after the industrial revolution and over the 19th century, as the political power of the aristocracy diminished, modern legislation increasingly made land ownership a possibility for the common man and a social form of wealth that became subject to extensive regulation, such as for housing, national parks and agriculture.
My ancestors originally came to the U.S. from England and Ireland during the 1700s and originally settled in Tennessee. However in the 1800s, when the government was giving away sections of land in the Arizona Territory to those brave enough to come and claim it, my mother’s family migrated out west and settled near what is now Phoenix. For that particular time in our country’s development, homesteaded land was free to the taker. As land was being settled, and ownership of this land was changing hands, a whole new vocabulary and process to secure land ownership was created.
Let’s talk about measurements. How do you determine how much land you have? An acre is a measure of land area measuring 43,560 square feet. An acre can be of any shape, rectangle, triangle, or circle as long the area measures exactly 43,560 feet. A section of land, under the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), is an area that is one square mile (2.6 square kilometers), containing 640 acres (260 hectares). Townships are a major subdivision of public lands under the rectangular survey system, measuring approximately six miles on a side (36 square miles).
Public land in the United States is land that was originally transferred directly from the federal government to individuals. Public lands (public domain), consisting of all land outside the original 13 colonies and the five states later formed from them (and later West Virginia and Hawaii), first came under government control following the Revolutionary War.
As the United States grew, additional land was added to the public domain through acquiring Indian land by treaty and by purchase from other governments.
Over half of the land worldwide is rangeland, more land than any other type of ecosystem. Rangeland is a collective term for native grasses and shrubs that cover an arid or semi-arid area. Rangeland can include ecosystems such as forests, woodlands, savannas, tundra, marshes and wetlands. Rangelands are largely used for livestock grazing or reserved as part of a conservation program.
When it comes to personal property, the map or survey showing or including boundaries for personal property lines is called a cadastral. This is the official description of the land you own.
A deed (anciently an evidence) is any legal instrument in writing which passes, affirms or confirms an interest, right, or property and that is signed, attested, delivered, and in some jurisdictions sealed. It is commonly associated with transferring title to property. The deed has a greater presumption of validity and is less rebuttable than an instrument signed by the party to the deed.
A quitclaim deed is a legal instrument which is used to transfer interest in real property. The entity transferring its interest is called the grantor, and when the quitclaim deed is properly completed and executed, it transfers any interest the grantor has in the property to a recipient, called the grantee. The owner/grantor terminates (“quits”) any right and claim to the property, thereby allowing the right or claim to transfer to the recipient/grantee.
Unlike most other property deeds, a quitclaim deed contains no title covenant and thus offers the grantee no warranty as to the status of the property title; the grantee is entitled only to whatever interest the grantor actually possesses at the time the transfer occurs. This means that the grantor does not guarantee that he or she actually owns any interest in the property at the time of the transfer, or if he or she does own an interest, that the title is free and clear. It is, therefore, possible for a grantee to receive no actual interest, and — because a quitclaim deed offers no warranty — have no legal recourse to recover any losses. Further, if the grantor should acquire the property at a later date, the grantee is not entitled to take possession, because the grantee can only receive the interest the grantor held at the time the transfer occurred. In contrast, other deeds often used for real estate sales (called grant deeds or warranty deeds, depending on the jurisdiction) contain warranties from the grantor to the grantee that the title is clear or that the grantor has not placed any encumbrance against the title.
Mineral or oil rights on your land
The term “mineral rights” normally refers to subsurface rights to any mineral, and commonly refers to natural gas and oil. However, it includes all minerals found beneath the land’s surface, such as gold, diamonds, quartz and copper. The California Farmland Conservancy Program notes that in some instances, surface rights are included in the mineral rights transfer. In these cases, the mineral rights owner can lease the right to extract surface minerals such as clay, lignite, coal or gravel.
For information regarding water shares in Utah, visit waterrights.utah.gov/wrinfo/faq.asp.
Implied rights of land ownership
Ownership of property may be private, collective, or common, and the property may be of objects, land/real estate or intellectual property. Determining ownership in law involves determining who has certain rights and duties over the property.
Jay Cooper can be contacted at email@example.com, or you can visit his channel at youtube.com/dirtfarmerjay for videos on the hands-on life of gardening, shop and home skills, culinary arts and landscaping.