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Selling Your Land

Real Estate Program

The Wisconsin State Legislature has given DNR the responsibility and authority to acquire land for conservation, natural resource protection and public outdoor recreation purposes. This authority is found in Chapter 23 of the Wisconsin Statutes. DNR continually collects and analyzes data on the status of natural resources and recreational needs and adjusts programs and policies appropriately. Establishing land acquisition priorities within existing projects depends on a variety of factors but acquisition is always based on the willingness of the landowner to sell his or her land to DNR.

Mackenzie Center Prairie
Fee title acquisition
Fee title acquisition is the outright purchase of land, including the complete transfer of title to the property and all the rights associated with ownership as defined above.
An easement is a way to convey some of the land rights associated with ownership of property to another party. It is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency, local unit of government or qualified nonprofit organization that conveys specific rights and permanently limits specified current and future uses.
DNR buys rights to further the goals of a specific program. For example, DNR might purchase access rights to a stream so that the public could fish there. DNR may also purchase the right to control growing crops or pasturing cows along a stream bank to improve the water quality of the stream. In another instance, DNR might buy the right to prohibit filling or draining the property in order to restore a wetland for wildlife habitat.
Contacting the landowner
DNR buys from willing sellers within the boundaries of established DNR projects. In some cases, department employees contact a landowner to explain the project and the department's specific resource management objectives and ask about his or her interest in selling. In other cases, a landowner contacts the department and offers his or her land for sale or donation.
If a landowner is interested in selling his or her property, the department orders at least one and often two independent appraisals of the land to determine its fair market value. Fair market value is defined as the most probable price that a property is estimated to bring if placed for sale on the open market for a reasonable period of time.
A DNR staff appraiser or a private appraiser completes the appraisals. Appraisals must conform to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice and there may be other state or federal standards for the appraisal depending on the circumstances. Upon ordering an appraisal, it will take approximately 90 days for the appraiser to complete the appraisal and for the department to complete its review of the appraisal. Once the appraisals and all necessary reviews are complete, the department will contact the owner of the land regarding the process for negotiating and purchasing the property.
Please note that DNR will not accept an appraisal commissioned by the landowner.
Making an offer to purchase
DNR makes an "offer to option" when the appraisal(s) have been reviewed and approved by DNR's appraisal review staff. If the owner accepts the offer, he or she grants an option to DNR to purchase the land. This option gives DNR the right to purchase the land within a certain period of time at a certain price. The process requires Natural Resources Board and Governor approvals and some transactions may require review by certain committees of the state legislature. Once all required approvals are received the landowner is notified that DNR is accepting the option.
Transfer of ownership
Transferring ownership, commonly referred to as the "closing," is the last step in the acquisition process. Typically, most of the details have been worked out by this time, including legal counsel review, review of option and review of the legal description of the property.