How-To: Researching BLM Master Title Plats

At Mirr Ranch Group, we spend an enormous amount of time deep in the due diligence process, taking special care to understand any issues that may affect our clients and their ranches for sale.  The list of issues that we research is exhaustive – access, water rights, mineral rights, title issues, easements, zoning and entitlements, just to name a few.  For ranches that either border or surround land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), we always make sure to pull a copy of the BLM Master Title Plat (MTP) to fully understand any current or potential issues that could arise on the parcel of BLM land.

Until a few years ago, the process of researching MTPs involved a trip to the BLM regional field office, followed by at least an hour of shuffling through paper maps or microfilm.  The entire process has since been moved online, although the BLM website is anything but intuitive.  In this post, I’ll walk you through the research process, as well as explain more about the importance of MTPs.

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What is a Master Title Plat?  According the BLM, “Master Title Plats are large-scale graphic representations of current federal ownership, agency jurisdiction, and rights reserved to the federal government on private land.”  As you can see in the MTP below, it’s basically a very rudimentary map, identified by Township and Range, that gives a rough visual representation of any easements, ownership interests, right-of-ways that affect BLM lands.  Keep in mind, identifying the issues on the MTP is just the first step.  Further research to fully understand each issue represented on the MTP is a vital next step.

BLM Master Title Plat

Why are Master Title Plats important?  It is extremely important to understand any potential issues that could arise on adjoining BLM property, or on a BLM in-holding surrounded by private land.  For example, if a buyer were looking at a large Colorado ranch that was bisected by a strip of BLM land, it would be important to understand all easements or right-of-ways associated with that strip of land.  While it is likely that there is nothing out of the ordinary (perhaps just standard easements for power or fiber optic), there is a chance that the federal government could be retaining an access easement to drive through this BLM strip to access other land.  An easement such as this would not show up on the title commitment (because it’s not on the private land), but could definitely have a significant impact on the owners’ enjoyment and use of the ranch as a whole.

How to access a Master Title Plat:

  • Go to the BLM’s Official Federal Lands Records Site
  • Scroll down and click on Land Status Records
  • Fill in the State, County, Township, Range, and Meridian.  Then select “Master Title Plat” from the dropdown menu.  Hit the “Search Land Status” button.
  • The next page will give you the search results.  You can click on the correct MTP, and download it in PDF format.

Next Steps:  As mentioned above, downloading the MTP and visually identifying potential issues is just the first step.  Each issue that could potentially affect the property in question should be thoroughly researched using some of the BLM’s other online tools.  Feel free to contact us for more information, as Mirr Ranch Group prides ourselves on our ability to quickly and effectively identify issues that may affect our clients’ ranches and investments.

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