What Is Raw Land? | askBAMLand

When assessing a property without development, it’s common to find that the parcel is labeled as raw land.

A parcel of raw land is essentially a property that has undergone no development whatsoever.  This means that raw parcels have not had any form of construction, maintenance, or modification done to them - and have been left in their natural, untouched state.  

It’s often easy to confuse raw lands with vacant properties, as they undeniably can have some very similar features.  Since both land classifications are known for looking relatively empty or even untouched, it’s easy to correlate their features with one another and assume that they are one and the same.  In reality, raw lands take it a step further, as vacant properties often have some form of alteration to them.  In addition, raw lands are extremely dynamic and versatile properties, which can be transformed into just about anything - depending on their qualities.

Raw lands are scattered throughout the United States and are owned by private property owners, various land trusts, as well as government organizations such as the Bureau of Land Management.

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Raw Land Uses

To understand just how dynamic raw lands can be, you should first consider the varying landscapes that we can find throughout the United States.  With just under 2 billion acres of land in our nation, we have a lot of room to play around with, which is why raw parcels of land can be found just about everywhere.  

With the exclusion of most urban cities, raw lands can be found in the most desolate locations, as well as rural living spaces.  The reason why raw lands stay in their natural state is most commonly due to the fact that we simply have more space than we need.

With that being said, it is by no means a bad thing to have extra space in our country.  Given that raw lands have been left in their natural condition, the prospect of utilizing the space for future development projects or pursuing other land uses is always on the table.

Moreover, many of our raw lands stay untouched for the fact that they have been classified as properties with no immediate value or simply have not been tapped for resources.  To understand this better, let’s take a look at some of the ways we use raw lands and what potential they may serve for our future.

Development On Raw Land

The massive increase in urban populations since colonization and industrialization has led to massive increases in the number of people that live in our cities, which is where the benefit of having raw lands truly becomes a valuable asset.

The versatility of raw lands presents many ways to adapt to such dilemmas by utilizing our vast open spaces as a means of coping with such living conditions.

In addition, our raw lands also present an alternative to urban living entirely by enabling individuals to pursue developments outside the confinements of big cities.  Let’s take a look at some of the ways that raw lands affect development.

Urban Development

One of the most common ways that we use our raw lands is to expand our urban cities.

Given that most urban areas were designed and created during a time when our country had a significantly smaller population, most of our cities had to adapt to the constant increase in the amount people flocking to live in them.

Much like with a small town, most city limits are bordered by some form of raw land.  These open spaces provide a solution to an inevitable urban issue.  These raw lands are generally converted to expand residential neighborhoods or can even be used for commercial and industrial purposes for the sake of increase a cities job market.

This can be a particularly useful way to utilize raw lands in cities that have strict zoning restrictions, which place limitations on the distance certain businesses have to be away from city limits.

Rural Development

Escaping the busyness of a city is a calling for many individuals to move out of urban environments altogether.  It’s people like this who often end up utilizing raw lands to set up shop somewhere that they can have peace of mind, which is why raw lands are a very common place for people to build their homes.

Given that raw lands can be much cheaper than buying real estate within a city, many people take it upon themselves to acquire these untouched land parcels to build the home of their dreams at a fraction of the cost.

In addition (as stated above), commercial and industrial business owners also indulge in the benefits of establishing themselves on rural raw lands to pursue their developments.  Aside from the lax government oversight, the location of running a large-scale business on raw lands is much more cost-beneficial in the long run.

Farming On Raw Land  

One of the most common ways we use our raw lands is to convert them for agricultural purposes.  Since raw lands offer such a clean slate and can be used for so many things, it’s important to know what they are most suitable for so that they can be utilized in the most practical and efficient way possible.

With that being said, not all raw lands are going to be suitable for farming.  In order for food to be effectively grown, there must be healthy, fertile soil beneath the ground.  This can be determined by having the soil tested and evaluated by a professional appraiser.

By having an appraiser that specializes in agriculture come assess the raw land, you can confirm the quality of the soil and begin establishing your food growing operation.  However, if the appraiser finds that the soil is not suitable for growing crops, all hope is not lost.

Raw lands can continue to prove to be worthy for farmland if you simply adapt the intended use of the property.  Given that cattle and other livestock do not necessarily need fertile soil, you could utilize the raw land to produce meat and other animal-based products. In addition, if the raw land naturally has grass that is suitable for feeding farm animals, you could open a free-range or grass-fed farm.

Harvesting Resources On Raw Land

The potential for harvesting resources is an amazing opportunity that is commonly found on raw lands.

Much like with any energy resource that has not been tapped, it’s hard to know the potential the raw land has for such an operation until carefully considering the qualities of the land - above the ground and below.  The trouble with this is that it can be challenging for someone that doesn’t specialize in energy resource analysis to conclude the worthiness the land parcel has for harvesting.

While it is possible to come to a certain conclusion based on your own always, in these situations, it’s always best to seek the assistance of a professional before making assumptions.

The great thing about harvesting resources on raw lands is that you could have a mixed bag of financial opportunities.

The resources we use are becoming more versatile and, in some cases, easier and more reliable to harvest.  With that being said, it may be a good idea to have a couple of different appraisers evaluate the land for different resources, as there may be more than one type you could harvest.

To understand this better, let’s take a look at some of the common energy resources associated with raw lands.  

Non-Renewable Energy Resources

The traditional energy resources we’ve harvested on raw lands have always been non-renewables.  Although sustainable living and green energy are becoming more popularized, non-renewable energy resources are still highly needed and profitable.

The most common non-renewable energy resources you will likely find on your property will be:

  • Oil
  • Natural gas
  • Coal
  • Nuclear energy

These resources can be particularly challenging to identify on raw lands.  The best way to get an indication of what’s going on beneath the ground is to hire a geologist to come survey and analyze the land.  This will give you the reassurance that the resources you are looking for actually exist on the raw land and are worthy of harvesting.

Renewable Energy Resources

It’s becoming much more common to acquire raw lands for the purpose of utilizing them for harvesting renewable energy resources.

While this is a much newer trend, it is taking off in a big way.  This is due to society transitioning to this as a primary source to fill our energy needs, as well as industry advancements in renewable energy that make harvesting these resources much more practical, efficient, and financially viable.

Let’s take a look at the common renewable energy resources you can harvest on raw lands:

  • Solar
  • Wind

The great thing about harvesting non-renewables is that they are often much easier to evaluate than fossil fuels.  Since they are not harvested below the ground, finding an indication of where they are located comes with a lot more clarity.  So much so, that many individuals can take it upon themselves to begin assessing raw lands on their own.

Once you have found raw land that appears to be worthy of harvesting solar or wind energy, it’s always a good idea to hire a renewable energy specialist to confirm your suspicions and seal the deal.

Raw lands continue to display their versatility by often being worthy of harvesting numerous types of resources - renewable and non-renewable.  After assessing a raw land parcel that offers the opportunity to harvest more than one resource, you can establish whatever operation you consider makes the most financial or economic sense.

Raw Land For Conservation

While it’s easy to associate raw lands as being desolate and having no environmental qualities, the opposite is often the case.

Raw lands make up millions of acres of land in our nation and much of that land serves as a home for many at-risk species.  In addition, some raw lands simply have a natural aesthetic that makes them valuable for the purpose of outdoor recreation.

It’s these environmental qualities that lead many raw lands to become protected under conservation restrictions and values.  Regardless of whether raw lands are owned by a private individual, a land trust, or the United States government, if the land parcel has significant ecological properties, it can undergo a conversion process known as a conservation easement.

Unless already classified as conservation land by the government, the most common way this occurs is when a private property owner or non-profit land trust evaluates the raw land through an appraisal process.

If the conservation appraiser finds that the property is a crucial habitat or has vital natural resources, the raw land can be converted for conservation and fall under permanent protection from development and human interference.


Brittany Melling

Brittany Melling

Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down. Since then, we’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans mostly in the western United States. We’ve been trained by experience, land acquisition courses, and hundreds of hours meeting with county assessors and clerks, zoning officials, realtors, and land investors. We’ve answered hundreds of questions from people regarding the buying and use of land.

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