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In the early 19th century, [[guano]] came to be prized as an agricultural fertilizer. In [[1855.]], the U.S. learned of rich guano deposits on islands in the [[Pacific Ocean]]. Congress passed the Guano Islands Act to take advantage of these deposits.
The act specifically allowed the islands to be considered a possession of the U.S., but it also provided that the U.S. was not obliged to retain possession after the guano was exhausted. However, it did not specify what the status of the territory was after it was abandoned by private U.S. interests.
This is the beginning of the concept of [[insular area]]s in U.S. territories. Up to this time, any territory acquired by the U.S. was considered to have become an integral part of the country unless changed by treaty, and to eventually have the opportunity to become a state of the Union. With insular areas, land could be held by the federal government without the prospect of it ever becoming a state in the Union. Such insular areas are also known as [[unincorporated territory]].
More than 50 islands were eventually claimed. Of those remaining under U.S. control are [[Baker Island]], [[Jarvis Island]], [[Howland Island]], [[Kingman Reef]], [[Johnston Atoll]], and [[Midway Atoll]]. Others are no longer considered [[Political divisions of the United States#Territories of the United States|U.S. Territory]]. Possession of [[Navassa Island]] is currently disputed with [[Haiti]]. An even more complicated case probably unresolved until now seems to be the [[Serranilla Bank]] and the [[Bajo Nuevo Bank]]. In [[1971.]], the U.S. and [[Honduras]] signed a treaty recognizing Honduran sovereignty over the [[Swan Islands]].