What is a land grant?

Learn more about this particular type of government grant, what it’s for, and which individuals and companies can use it.

You may already be familiar with the term “land grant” as it applies to colleges or universities — especially if you grew up in an area with one — but the term itself spans beyond just places of education. Let’s explore what a land grant is, how it’s been used historically, and what it looks like today.

Land grant explained.

In simple terms, a grant is anything of value that the government awards to a non-government entity. A land grant, then, is land that is given to a person, company, or state in exchange for a specific purpose.

A land grant is often tied to some sort of incentive. Historically, you could receive land in exchange for cultivating farmland or conserving an area. Other times, land grants were given to benefit the public in some way, such as establishing colleges and universities or improving transportation. In fact, all five of the transcontinental railroads in the United States were built using land grants.

Land has also been rewarded in the U.S. in return for military service, especially during the American Revolutionary War.

Do land grants still exist?

Land grants still exist in the U.S., but they look slightly different from the original grants. Today they mostly focus on conserving or protecting public and private lands. These opportunities vary significantly in their use — from supporting field biologists to providing technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, foresters and private landowners for habitat conservation optimization.

If you want to apply for one, federal websites are available to help you find and apply for grants in your area. The application process varies depending on the grant type but will typically request a statement of intent, necessary supporting signatures, and technical details (such as land area and geography).

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