History Of The Section

Assistant Attorney General Ernest Knaebel and a Line up of some of women welders including the women's welding champion of Ingalls [Shipbuilding Corp., Pascagoula, MS]., 1943 Courtesy of the National Archives.


The Land Acquisition Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division has a history as old as the division. In 1909, when the Division was created it was called the Public Lands Division, with a mandate to handle on behalf of the United States “all suits and proceedings concerning the enforcement of the Public Land law.” AG Report 1910, 26. The Division was established in response to the need to “properly attend to the enormous and increasing volume of business relating to the public lands of the United States, and of Indian affairs.” Id. Ernest Knaebel, special assistant to the Attorney General, was designated to lead the Public Lands Division, and the Attorney General’s Order transferred five additional attorneys and three stenographers to the Division.

Historically the land acquisition function (which includes title reviews both for agency direct purchases and in condemnation actions; appraisal reviews; and condemnation litigation) was such a large part of the Division’s work that at various times there have been separate Title and Appraisal Sections. For example in 1937, two of the six Lands Divisions sections were the Condemnation Section and the Title Section. This separation of functions coincided with the most significant land acquisition case load of the twentieth century, with condemnation for New Deal projects, and then for World War II military facilities. Today, Title and Appraisal are both units within the Land Acquisition section.

For more in-depth history of federal eminent domain cases, click here.


Updated May 15, 2015

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