The States With The Most Land Owned By The Federal Government

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10. Colorado
> State Land Owned By Federal Government: 24.4 Million acres
> Total State Land: 66 Million Acres
> Percent State Land Owned By Federal Government: 36.6%

Most of the federally owned land in Colorado is managed by the National Forest Service. Most of it is in the western part of the state, where the White River, Rio Grande, and San Juan National Forests are located. A great deal of the Western Colorado public lands are leased, or are available for leasing, to timber companies, mineral, oil, and natural gas companies. Recently, two major parcels of land, totaling over 1,600 acres, were leased to an oil and natural gas extractor in Rio Blanco County this month, according to the Denver Post. Of the transaction, which totaled nearly $555,000 acres, the state received just under half of the proceeds.

9. New Mexico
> State Land Owned By Federal Government: 32.4 Million Acres
> Total State Land: 77.7 Million Acres
> Percent State Land Owned By Federal Government: 41.7%

Federal land in New Mexico has many uses. Large amounts of land are managed by the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Defense. The federal government is often reluctant to sell its land. Many are worried that preservation measures are preventing growth, however. New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce recently claimed that protections for the dunes sagebrush lizard would lead to economic devastation in the region. Approximately 15% of more than 22,000 acres where leases are proposed for the second half of this year contains dunes sagebrush lizard habitat, an ecologist from the Center for Biological Diversity told Bloomberg. This land would be restricted if the lizard remains on the Endangered Species List, and therefore remain undeveloped.

8. Wyoming
> State Land Owned By Federal Government: 26.4 Million Acres
> Total State Land: 62.3 Million Acres
> Percent State Land Owned By Federal Government: 42.33%

The Bureau of Land Management, The Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service own and manage major tracts of land in Wyoming. In addition, the National Parks Service owns the 2.2 million acre Yellowstone National park in the northwest corner of the state. According to energy and metals publication Platts, the Bureau of Land Management is considering a bid of nearly $300 million to lease a tract to Antelope Coal to harvest in the region. According to the article: “The sale of the West Antelope tract, which spreads out over 2,837 acres southeast of Wright, Wyoming, also marks an important milestone for the state’s coal industry, which has faced unexpected legal hurdles in the usually smooth federal leasing process.” The report states that the biggest of these hurdles has been lawsuits from environmental groups.

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7. California
> State Land Owned By Federal Government: 45 Million Acres
> Total State Land: 100.2 Million Acres
> Percent State Land Owned By Federal Government: 45.3%

California has massive tracts of federal land overseen by the Forest Service, the National Parks Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. Some of this land has been leased for oil drilling in recent years. There is now a large push to use public land in California to develop solar energy. Encouraged by tax incentives and loans, companies such as Chevron, BP, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have set up solar projects in California’s open deserts. In fact, eight major solar projects were set up in Southern California in 2010 alone.

6. Arizona
> State Land Owned By Federal Government: 34.9 Million Acres
> Total State Land: 34.9 Million Acres
> Percent State Land Owned By Federal Government: 48%

Arizona’s federally owned and managed lands cover roughly half the state, with large sections of land owned by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the Department of Defense. One particular section of federal land under the Bureau of Land Management’s purview called “the Arizona Strip” has become the subject of intense debate because of its rich uranium and vanadium resources. According to the Uranium Investing News, the Department of the Interior is considering issuing a 20-year ban on development of roughly 1 million acres on the strip because of its proximity to the Grand Canyon National Park.