How Much Land Does The Federal Government Own?

Here in North Dakota we’ve been fighting a battle against a federal land grab called the Northern Plains Heritage Area. It’s a National Heritage Area land designation which, while not specifically giving ownership of the 4.6 million acres contained in it to the federal government, designates the land and funds an un-elected board of a non-profit to develop a management plan for it.

This was put in place without notifying land owners and without, at least originally, giving them any way to opt out of it.

North Dakotans and the denizens of other large western states with low population densities are also familiar with the manner in which the federal government is constantly pushing to expand its regulatory authority over our lands. The fight against such encroachment is endless.

So the creep of federal control over our lands is something North Dakotans are very aware of. But even to those familiar with this issue, this map may come as a shock.

From Big Think:

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.

At a time when our federal government is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, we might want to ask ourselves why it is the federal government needs to own so much land and whether or not we wouldn’t be better off if they owned and managed less.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • spud

    Wow I always thought it was a bunch but that much, wow! Yes when we are in such financial shape makes no sense to own this much let’s pay down the debt. ? for you. Landowners along the red who flood constantly want their buyouts also with prices that would be way over actual value of this flooded land because of high priced land increasing valuation of this land. What are your or anyone else who has an opinion. I farm but have no land in flood areas so I hate to see our government paying way above actual value for this flooded land.

  • Marty McKeever

    INteresting map, but so was the comment about leased for agriculture/mining etc. A better map would show a breakdown of revenue… nobody would buy desert but a mining company.

    • 2hotel9

      Don’t poopoo “desert” land, as long as you don’t expect to grow a lawn or shubs etc you build some fine living spaces out there. And a lot of what city folks call desert is nice land, you just got to adjust your self to it, not the other way around.

  • awfulorv

    Looks like some great spots to transplant a horde of illegal Mexican, Democratic voters. And that space would easily give a better life to about 100 million poor folks from Africa, so they can enjoy what we’ve had these many years. It’s only right that we do this, sayeth the Liberals.

  • 2hotel9

    Actually the shocker is some of the eastern states. The western states had large sections co-opted by government during the railroad building era, and I have been on military reservations in several of those states that are GIGANTIC. But look at New Hampshire, North Carolina, Michigan and Virginia. that is some considerable percentages of prime real estate right there. Just selling off tracts in those states would raise a major amount of revenue. And if environazis want to screech about keeping the forests or wetlands or whatnot make them put their money where their fat mouths are and buy it.

  • kbiel

    I’m OK with the Federal Government owning land as long as they buy it, not expropriate it. In fact, leasing the land or resources is a good way to fund the government, again as long as it was bought off of the market where anyone could have bought the same plot of land had they bid enough.

    Of course, I’m not OK with the Federal Government doing any purchasing of land or funding pointless conservation efforts while we are neck deep in debt and spending.

  • awfulorv

    Never fear, Harry Reid and his clan have got their eyes on the “Good” stuff in Nevada, at least, and will be taking those “Non Income Producing” acres off our hands before he leaves office. Course it’ll be an “Even” trade, like they’ve all been. That’s how he got rich, making “even” trades. The voters knew of his shady deals and, still, they re-elected him.

  • ND in MD

    To my knowledge (please correct me if I am wrong) the Federal Governemnt does not pay local property taxes on Federally owned land. If this land was in privately held hands, in many areas, the local government would be receiving property taxes from this land to support local governments, schools, park districts, etc.

    • ToucheTurtle

      That is TRUE!!!

  • Jamermorrow

    Sell all the federal land and pay back the national debt. Government should not own land.

  • deeked

    How much do they own? Too much.

  • NDSuperman

    I wouldn’t be surprised if many people would like to accept land as a substitute payment for social security. I know that I would.

  • Davidebestequi

    At $5,000.00 an acre that comes to $3,250,000,000,000 . That and the 8900 tons of gold the goverment owns might put a good dent in the national debt . I say sell it to american citizens with the contingency that it stays in american hands .

    • 2hotel9

      Sounds good to me!

  • Dennis

    Actually, if you go to the Bureau of Land Management and USFS websites, the BLM claims 245,000,000 acres in land and another 700,000,000 acres in offshore property and the USFS indicates they own another 193,000,000 acres of land for a total of 1,138,000,000 acres.

    These values do not include properties owned by DOD, DOE, DOA, ACE, NPS, DFW or Bureau of Reclamation.

    These values also do not include state lands, county lands or lands owned by cities or by Tribal Nations within the United States & it‘s territories.

    In addition, private lands which have been placed under “Conservation” status and are therein non taxed, are not included in such total.

    Anyone that would like to help me document the total loss of land by acreage, that is presently non taxed and not available for purchase by the general public, can contact me at:
    [email protected]@hotmail.comThanksActually, if you go to the Bureau of Land Management and USFS websites, the BLM claims 245,000,000 acres in land and another 700,000,000 acres in offshore property and the USFS indicates they own another 193,000,000 acres of land for a total of 1,138,000,000 acres.

    These values do not include properties owned by DOD, DOE, DOA, ACE, NPS, DFW or Bureau of Reclamation.

    These values also do not include state lands, county lands or lands owned by cities or by Tribal Nations within the United States & it‘s territories.

    In addition, private lands which have been placed under “Conservation” status and are therein non taxed, are not included in such total.

    Anyone that would like to help me document the total loss of land by acreage, that is presently non taxed and not available for purchase by the general public, can contact me at:
    [email protected]@hotmail.comThanks

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