Let's pretend Antarctica becomes inhabitable according to a scientific study and people decide they want to now live there. Who owns what? How is property divided up, or is the first person to simply "claim" Antarctica now the owner of it?
Homesteading typically involves mixing labor with the land, so to speak.
If I draw an outline of a square in the ice, is that now my property? How do you unambiguously mix labor with land?
And if I harvest a field once and then leave with no plans to return, is that land forever my property and then the property of whom I leave it to?
If you have no plans to return, then you don't really intend to keep it as property, and if this can be proved in court, then I think that it would be considered abandoned.
Also, no you can't just draw a square.
Homesteading is one of those things that will likely be up to tradition and cultural norms. Sorry I can't be much more specific.
Homesteading is arbitrary as is abandonment of that property. The problem is that there is no standard policy just as there is no standard that can be applied to all land among all people universally. For example: An abandoned lot in a city may be considered abandoned if the owner leaves it for a few months, a mine may considered abandoned if the owner leaves it for more than a few years but farmland may be considered abandoned if the owner leaves it for a decade.
Just because you drew a box around some land may in the eyes of an arbitrator be enough to establish ownership of that land. But unless you inhabit the property and use the property you inhabit an arbitrator may consider that land abandoned. If you box in an area the size of Michigan and have a 500 acre farm in the middle of it, then I could see an arbitrator determining that you abandoned the rest of it.
Consider how superior the vague concept of homesteading and abandonment where disputes are resolved by third party arbitrators is over using agents of force to perform the same tasks. These agents of force can arbitrarily decide which property is homesteaded or abandoned, and worse they can take property as well through confiscation and its backdoor partner taxation.
I think this issue stems from the fantasy that agents of force can actually make rules that are just as good as Natural Laws.
Is it considered homesteading if I claim the whole Rocky Mountain Range as a nature reserve? :p
Sure. Understand that you would have to police the mountain range and actively establish the area as a nature preserve and prevent squatters, livestock herds and like from using portions of the property. Understand that this would be extremely difficult to do as you would have to have a large police force to patrol the area and probably need robots and the like to do the same.
And even then, what do you do with people and owned animals that mistakenly come onto the property and decide to stay? In a free society this would be up to an arbitrator to decide if these people or the animal owners are homesteading the property.
Contrast this with govenrment run property where it is completely up to the government to determine what to do with the property despite any desires of any entrepreneurs who might want to use the property.
And there are plenty of private nature preserves and one time in the USA in a more free age, people purchased areas for nature preserves and funded the people to protect these areas.
This is I think the least well explained question in libertarian theory. I hope some day this subject will be more researched.
I guess I agree with Bogart here. You can homestead a very large area, but on several conditions. First, you need to make sure that you don't encroach on the rights of those who used the area before you. Second, you need to really use the entire area.
The rightful owner of anything is the individual or party most disposed to back up their ownership claim against all other potential usurpers.