If you’re comfortable transporting bird feces for a paltry living, you maybe, through a technicality found in an 1856 law, possibly, could own an island. How’s that for good news?! The backstory begins with the booming avian excrement business of the 1800s. For at least 1500 years, Spanish American farmers had used dried sea fowl feces called guano as a nutrient-rich fertilizer. The U.S. wanted in on the lucrative guano business that, at the time, was primarily run out of sea fowl-rich Peru. After many attempts failed, the U.S. passed a bill that became the Guano Islands Act of 1856. It still stands. How does it work? Should a U.S. citizen (that’s you!) find guano upon “any rock, island, or key” that is not currently within lawful jurisdiction of any other government, that person may claim the territory for America. Congress can then choose to give you “exclusive right” to live on the island for the purpose of obtaining guano for the citizen of the United States. The caveat? The bill itself doesn’t make any allowance for inflation so you’ll be pulling in $8 per ton of bird feces. Talk about a party fowl.
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