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

Rob Port is the editor of 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.

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