Tuesday, 7 February 2017


Satellite views of some rural areas of US northwest reveal forested lands that have distinctive chequerboard patterns—almost like the transparent colour tool in digital imagery, whose origins reach back to the mid nineteenth century when federal lands were parcelled to corporations and individuals in such an alternating fashion, beginning with railroad land grants along transportation corridors.
The public retained the spaces in between—these are square mile lots—as wooded refuges buffeted by grazing land managed by homesteaders, and hoped to benefit economically as improved infrastructure increased the value of federal holdings. The government planned to sell the remaining parcels at a profit but this real estate bubble failed to foment as most people motivated to resettle and go West weren’t people of means to begin with and could not afford plots adjacent to the railways and most went unsold or were given away wholesale.