The Importance of Public Lands: Exploring the Five States with the Most Federal Land
As the world becomes increasingly developed, public lands provide a precious resource for all Americans. These lands, such as national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests, offer stunning vistas and natural habitats for a wealth of plant and animal species. In fact, public lands in the United States encompass more than 640 million acres. This represents roughly 28 percent of the entire country’s surface area.
Public lands exist in every state, but some states have more than others. In this article, we’ll explore the states with the most federal land, examining the implications of their status and the unique natural features that make them so special.
The five states with the most federal land, in descending order, are Alaska, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and California.
Alaska is unquestionably the state with the most federal land. As of 2021, the state has more than 223 million acres of land owned by the federal government. This represents 59 percent of all federal land in the US. Most of the land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Park Service (NPS), and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
The land in Alaska is used for many purposes, including oil and gas drilling, mining, and logging. However, it also contains incredible natural wonders, such as Denali National Park and Preserve, which features the highest mountain in North America.
Nevada is second only to Alaska in terms of federal land ownership. The state has over 85 million acres of federal land, representing roughly 79 percent of its total land area. The majority of the federal land in Nevada is managed by the BLM, with smaller areas under the National Forest Service (NFS) and NPS.
The federal land in Nevada is used for a variety of purposes. The state is rich in minerals, with gold, silver, and copper among the valuable resources found on federal land. In addition, many areas provide important habitats for wildlife, such as the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.
Utah has more than 41 million acres of federal land, which represents over 63 percent of the state’s total land area. The majority of the federal land in Utah is managed by the BLM, followed by the NFS and NPS.
The federal land in Utah offers a variety of recreational opportunities, such as hiking, camping, and rock climbing. The state is home to stunning natural areas, such as Arches National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. However, there are also concerns about the impact of resource extraction on Utah’s federal lands, particularly with regards to oil and gas drilling.
Idaho has over 33 million acres of federal land, representing roughly 61 percent of the state’s total land area. The majority of this land is managed by the NFS, with smaller areas under the BLM and USFWS.
The federal land in Idaho is used for a variety of purposes, including timber harvesting, mining, and grazing. Wildlife also thrives on Idaho’s public lands, with areas such as the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness providing critical habitat for species such as elk, moose, and grizzly bears.
California has over 45 million acres of federal land, representing roughly 45 percent of the state’s total land area. The majority of this land is managed by the NFS, with smaller areas under the BLM and NPS.
California’s federal lands offer diverse ecosystems, ranging from the towering redwoods of Redwood National Park to the stark beauty of Death Valley. In addition, the state’s public lands provide valuable resources for industry and recreation, such as the vast forests of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Implications of Federal Land Ownership
There are both benefits and drawbacks to federal land ownership within these states. On the one hand, federal land ownership can help protect wild areas and ensure their preservation for future generations. Public lands also provide opportunities for recreational activities that are accessible to everyone. However, some point out that extensive federal land ownership can limit states’ abilities to manage their own resources and drive economic development. There are ongoing debates about how best to balance the needs of wildlife, industry, and recreation, especially in areas where these interests come into conflict.
Public lands are a precious and critical resource for the US. The states with the most federal land offer unique natural features and resources that have a significant impact on their local communities and the country as a whole. While federal land ownership can create challenges regarding economic development, it also helps ensure that critical habitats and ecosystems are protected for future generations to enjoy. As we move forward, it is important to carefully consider the implications of federal land ownership and work toward balancing the needs of wildlife, industry, and recreation within these valuable natural areas.