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Acquiring Federal Oil and Gas Leases—Some Problems and Suggested Solutions

James R. Learned, Proceedings of 9th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1964)

Although we are here concerned only with problems in acquiring federal oil and gas leases, the discussion of pertinent records will not be limited to those which are federally maintained. State and county records may be relevant in some instances.


Survey Records—Field Notes and Township Plats

The first public land survey records were prepared and maintained by the Treasury Department under the Ordinance of May 20, 1785. Following the pattern established by the Massachusetts Colony in 1634, the first [166] enabling legislation for the public land records adopted a rectangular grid survey system with the six mile square township as the basic unit.1 The surveys were conducted under contract by private individuals for some time and later by government employees. Upon completion of a survey project, township plats were prepared from the information in the field notes. After approval of the survey plats by the Office of the Surveyor General, one copy was filed in the Washington office and another in the local land office having jurisdiction over the lands involved. The Secretary of the Interior was authorized to make such resurveys as he deemed essential, provided that bona fide rights or claims of any claimant, entryman, or owner were not impaired.2 The original field notes, prepared during a survey or resurvey, and a copy of each township plat ar