The United States government has direct ownership of almost 650 million acres of land (2.63 million square kilometers) – nearly 30% of its total territory. These federal lands are used as military bases or testing grounds, nature parks and reserves and indian reservations, or are leased to the private sector for commercial exploitation (e.g. forestry, mining, agriculture). They are managed by different administrations, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Department of Defense, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation or the Tennessee Valley Authority.
This map details the percentage of state territory owned by the federal government. The top 10 list of states with the highest percentage of federally owned land looks like this:
Notable is that all these states are in the West (except Alaska, which strictly speaking is also a western state, albeit northwestern). Also notable is the contrast between the highest and the lowest percentages of federal land ownership. The US government owns a whopping 84.5% of Nevada, but only a puny 0.4% of Rhode Island and Connecticut. The lowest-percentage states are mainly in the East, but some are also in the Midwest and in the South:
Even the 10th place is still below the two percent mark. One territory is not specified on the map: Washington D.C. It could be argued that this is the only main administrative division of US territory to be fully owned by the federal government. It could, but that would be wrong – and upsetting to those private citizens who own part of the nation’s capital in the form of their real estate. It would be more correct to state that the District of Columbia by default falls under the direct tutelage of the Federal Government.
Many thanks to Jonathan Leblang and Adam Hahn for signaling this map, which appeared as an illustration to ‘Can the West Lead Us To A Better Place?‘, an article in Stanford Magazine, a periodical for and about alumni from that university.