The Nation: The Homestead Act Hits Home

An old law threatens farmers in the West

The Homestead Act of 1862 sent young men rushing westward by the thousands to stake their claim to 160 acres of public land, free of charge. More than a century later, the range has become the home of agribusiness conglomerates and huge farms of thousands of acres; the lone homesteader who tilled his quarter section (onefourth of a square mile, which totals 640 acres) has gone the way of the American buffalo.

Now a court decision is forcing Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus to try to...

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