Can You Build a Private Residence in a National Forest?
February 19, 2021
There’s nothing quite like the breathtaking splendor of our cherished National Forests. Us Coloradans love nothing more than spending a day hiking off the beaten path to commune with nature. How many times have you thought to yourself, “I could see myself building a cabin out here and calling it home”?
It certainly would be a dream to live a stone’s throw away from our favorite wilderness area. But if you’re cooking up a plan to build in a National Forest, you’ll be disappointed to know this isn’t possible.
Brief History of Our National Forests
The Forest Reserve Act of 1891 made it possible for the government to allocate certain land as “forest reserves” out west. This was the first step towards preserving our precious open spaces throughout the United States. Today, all public lands are cared for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. The aim is not only to assure we’re doing the best we can to be good stewards of this land but also to keep it pristine for generations to come.
According to their website, the USDA Forest Service’s mission is “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” Unlike our untouched National Parks, National Forests exist under a multi-use mandate. So we still tend to these lands carefully, but they also might be used for activities such as timber collection, recreation, and more.
Why Are There Houses in National Forests?
Yes, you probably have seen private property within a National Forest. These are called inholdings. As we mentioned earlier, forest reserves didn’t come around until 1891. A few decades earlier in 1862, the Homestead Act allowed citizens moving out west to claim up to 160 acres of public land to live on. These deeds were honored when the National Forests came along, creating “islands” of private land. These plots of land are the only places homes can stand within a National Forest.
How To Build Your Off-the-Grid Dream Home
Even though you can’t build a home in a National Forest, you can still achieve your off-the-grid dreams. There are plenty of opportunities to buy land near wooded areas, deep in the mountains, or out on the grasslands. Land lots can range anywhere from $100,000 into the millions depending on the acreage and location. Securing a suitable slice of land would be the first step in building your off-the-grid retreat.
The next order of business would be to secure a skillful custom home contractor you trust. Not only can they help you pick out a floor plan and suss out all the other details that go into designing a house, but they can also assist with building based on the regulations for the jurisdiction your land sits in. There are also considerations such as electricity, waste management, and waterlines that you can lean on your contractor to help with.
If you’re ready to build your Colorado dream home in the woods, H3 Design and Construction is up for the task. We take residential home design to new heights working closely with our clients to create a stylish, functional custom home they will love. Whether you’re looking for a modest cabin in the woods or a lavish mountain getaway destination, we can be your partners in design and construction.
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