Land grants were readily available at the turn of the century, but these were mainly awarded to railroad and other transcontinental transportation companies. This was to help develop a reliable system of transportation across North America. Today you can still receive the same type of free land grants, but they are known by different titles. Depending on your organization's reasons for wanting to acquire the land, you may want to apply for a land conservation grant. You may instead opt for an economic, urban or rural development grant.
Redevelop abandoned, idle or underused commercial and industrial facilities. Do this by applying for a Brownfield Economic Development Grant, (BEDI). These grants are available to local government entities, as well as private, non profit foundations. The grants allow you to acquire the property, and redevelop it, with a focus on providing jobs and economic growth in your area.
Acquire land and buildings by applying for a Rural Housing and Economic Development grant. These grants are awarded to non profit organizations in rural communities. The purpose is to provide housing or create economic development projects within their service area.
Visit the USDA's website to find out about a wealth of grant opportunities for land and property acquisition. Grant divisions include Business and Cooperative Development Grants, Housing and Community Facility Grants, as well as Community Development and Empowerment Grants.
Apply for a conservation or environmental preservation grant, to rehabilitate or protect natural habitats in your area. The National Library for the Environment maintains a list of hundreds of granting organizations that provide funding for environment and conservation oriented land acquisition projects.
Search state supported Land Acquisition grants on the Internet. Every state offers it's own forms of land acquisition grants. Examples are Florida's Land Acquisition and Management Grant Program, Rhode Island's Acquisition and Development Grants, and Maryland's Department of Natural Resources DNR sponsored grants and loans. Visit your local office for the Department of Natural Resources to discuss your plans. Ask about available grants for your specific project.
Keep trying. If one grant does not work out, another may be better suited for your needs and qualifications.
Never pay up front fees for a grant. This is a red flag for a scheme!