The Small Tract Act of 1938 was enacted in response to requests by primarily World War I Servicemen who wanted to move out in the desert for health and recreational purposes. Subsequently, after World War II, Southern Californians began looking for small acreages in the desert to get away from the smog and burgeoning population centers. The Small Tract Act was about the only method of making federal land available. Local counties were enthusiastic about "getting lands on the tax rolls", and were not concerned about infrastructure (roads, water, power, schools) to support such development.
The entire program, like Topsy, "just growed." In early 1959 the program was not resulting in an orderly development of the desert. Thousands of requests for classification for Small Tract disposal were pending. The requests were handled on a first-come, first-served basis, and at the same time there were several thousand vacant small tracts that had never been proved up on (no structure built). Those with applications for classification were pressuring Congress for action on their requests. Public hearings were held in Riverside and San Bernardino to resolve the situation. Local officials testified that counties wanted the lands put on the tax rolls, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officers were not too sure how fast they could respond to the crush of applications. (Training of personnel and streamlining of procedures were required.)
Some of the problems that evolved from the Small Tract Program were:
*Failure to reserve proper road right-of-ways (ROW). In some cases no ROW's were set aside in classification orders, and in such cases reserves were made around the perimeter of each individual tract. This restricted the use of the entire tract when in reality only one side needed to be encumbered.
*Classification for small tract disposal of unsuitable lands. Some early classifications were made from inadequate maps with no land examination. Steep terrain and blow-sand areas were classified, resulting in impassible roads and non-buildable sites.
*Unsightly or inappropriate structures. *Leap-frog types of development.
*Inadequate subdivision because of survey limitations. Compare Yucca Valley (mostly privately developed) and Morongo Valley (Small Tracts). *Limited commercial development.