Northwest Ordinance of 1787

The second early document relating to federal control of lands is the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. This ordinance required each new state admitted to the Union to respect the right of the federal government to dispose of public lands (i.e. manage them) within state boundaries. In effect, the ordinance made it a condition for admission that new states would give all unclaimed lands to the federal government.



"Public Lands, States' Rights, and the National Forests" by Dennis M. Roth, The Forest Service History Line, Fall 1980 (History Section, USDA-FS).