The Bureau of Land Management is a federal agency in the U.S. Department of the Interior. The BLM administers about 261 million acres of public lands, most of which are located in the Western states and contain natural, historical, cultural, recreational, and economic resources. Its goal is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

How does the agency determine what public land is to be auctioned off? In terms of Nevada's lands, it depends on the local government or Congress. “BLM consults with local government regarding the selection and timing of public lands to be offered for sale,” says Jo Simpson, BLM's Nevada communications chief. “In the Las Vegas valley, local government entities nominate the lands they want to be offered for sale for each auction. BLM follows the wishes of local government, because local government is responsible for providing the infrastructure and services to support the development.”

Simpson also notes that lands designated for retention in public ownership are managed for a variety of recreational purposes, including hiking, hunting, and fishing. Some are set aside as habitat for wild horses and burros, livestock grazing, and mining.

Builders need to perform due diligence when preparing to bid for public land. “The land parcels offered for sale by the BLM are appraised by certified appraisers to determine fair market value,” Simpson says. “That is the starting price for the auction of each parcel. Builders must determine how much above that price they are willing to bid, based on their own research of development costs and their profit objectives.”

Nods for Acres In fact, when you subtract 300 acres of unbuildable land from Olympia's parcel, its price tag goes up to $331,000 per acre.