Special Report

How Much Land the Government Owns in Every State and What It's Used For

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The U.S. government owns over 640 million acres of land across 50 states — equal to more than one-quarter of the country’s total landmass. Federal land can serve a wide variety of purposes, from development of natural resources to preservation, and much of it is open to the public for recreation and enjoyment.

Of course, the federal government does not have an equal footprint in each state. In some states, less than 1% of land is federally owned and managed, while in others, Uncle Sam owns well over half of all land. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the Congressional Research Service’s March 2017 report “Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data” to identify how much land the federal government owns in every state. Federal lands are largely concentrated in the West, with only about 4% of federal land east of the Mississippi River. Data on the federal government employment as a share of total employment by state are from the Current Employment Statistics program of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are as of 2018.

Federal land is primarily controlled by five agencies: the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and the Department of Defense. Nationwide, the BLM controls by far the most land, at 248.3 million acres — nearly all of which are in western states and Alaska. 

While it is far from the largest federal land holder — controlling about 80 million acres — the National Park Service manages the lands many Americans are most likely to be familiar with. The NPS ensures the preservation of 61 national parks and hundreds of other natural and historic attractions in the United States for the enjoyment of the public. Due in large part to international tourist destinations like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, U.S. parks attract more than 330 million visitors annually. These are the most popular national parks by state

Having large swaths of land owned by the federal government is not necessarily indicative of a large federal presence overall, such as government offices and services. In fact, in three out of the five states where the U.S. government owns the largest share of total land, the share of workers employed by the federal government is less than the 1.9% national employment concentration. Here is a look at the states where the most people work for the government.

Click here to see how much land the federal government owns in every state and what it’s used for

To determine how much land the federal government owns in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed figures from the Congressional Research Service’s March 2017 report “Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data.” Land ownership estimates by federal agency and total federal land ownership are as of 2015, the most recent year available.

 

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50. Connecticut
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 0.3%
> Federal land acreage: 8,939 of 3.1 million
> Leading agency: National Park Service (5,846 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.1%

See all stories featuring: Connecticut

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49. Iowa
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 0.3%
> Federal land acreage: 122,649 of 35.9 million
> Leading agency: Fish and Wildlife Service (72,064 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.1%

See all stories featuring: Iowa

Source: Paul Knightly / Getty Images

48. Kansas
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 0.5%
> Federal land acreage: 272,987 of 52.5 million
> Leading agency: Department of Defense (134,381 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.8%

See all stories featuring: Kansas

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47. New York
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 0.6%
> Federal land acreage: 188,537 of 30.7 million
> Leading agency: Department of Defense (109,478 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.2%

See all stories featuring: New York

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46. Rhode Island
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 0.7%
> Federal land acreage: 4,410 of 677,120
> Leading agency: Fish and Wildlife Service (2,415 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 2.2%

See all stories featuring: Rhode Island

45. Maine
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 1.1%
> Federal land acreage: 210,678 of 19.8 million
> Leading agency: Fish and Wildlife Service (68,950 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 2.4%

See all stories featuring: Maine

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44. Nebraska
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 1.1%
> Federal land acreage: 546,976 of 49.0 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (351,205 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.6%

See all stories featuring: Nebraska

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43. Illinois
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 1.1%
> Federal land acreage: 411,319 of 35.8 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (304,480 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.3%

See all stories featuring: Illinois

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42. Ohio
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 1.2%
> Federal land acreage: 307,180 of 26.2 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (244,420 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.4%

See all stories featuring: Ohio

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41. Massachusetts
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 1.2%
> Federal land acreage: 61,265 of 5.0 million
> Leading agency: National Park Service (32,961 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.2%

See all stories featuring: Massachusetts

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40. Oklahoma
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 1.6%
> Federal land acreage: 700,996 of 44.1 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (399,425 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 2.9%

See all stories featuring: Oklahoma

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39. Indiana
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 1.7%
> Federal land acreage: 385,405 of 23.2 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (203,682 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.2%

See all stories featuring: Indiana

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38. Texas
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 1.8%
> Federal land acreage: 3.0 million of 168.2 million
> Leading agency: National Park Service (1.2 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.6%

See all stories featuring: Texas

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37. Pennsylvania
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 2.1%
> Federal land acreage: 617,656 of 28.8 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (513,889 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.6%

See all stories featuring: Pennsylvania

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36. Delaware
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 2.4%
> Federal land acreage: 29,864 of 1.3 million
> Leading agency: Fish and Wildlife Service (25,543 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.2%

See all stories featuring: Delaware

Source: Jacqueline Nix / Getty Images

35. Alabama
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 2.7%
> Federal land acreage: 867,360 of 32.7 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (670,527 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 2.6%

See all stories featuring: Alabama

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34. Maryland
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 3.1%
> Federal land acreage: 192,948 of 6.3 million
> Leading agency: Department of Defense (102,157 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 5.3%

See all stories featuring: Maryland

Source: marekuliasz / Getty Images

33. Missouri
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 3.7%
> Federal land acreage: 1.6 million of 44.2 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (1.5 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.9%

See all stories featuring: Missouri

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD

32. New Jersey
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 3.7%
> Federal land acreage: 179,792 of 4.8 million
> Leading agency: Fish and Wildlife Service (73,106 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.2%

See all stories featuring: New Jersey

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31. North Dakota
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 3.9%
> Federal land acreage: 1.7 million of 44.5 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (1.1 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 2.1%

See all stories featuring: North Dakota

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30. Kentucky
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 4.3%
> Federal land acreage: 1.1 million of 25.5 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (819,548 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.9%

See all stories featuring: Kentucky

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29. South Carolina
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 4.7%
> Federal land acreage: 901,208 of 19.4 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (632,415 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.6%

See all stories featuring: South Carolina

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28. Georgia
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 4.7%
> Federal land acreage: 1.8 million of 37.3 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (867,381 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 2.2%

See all stories featuring: Georgia

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27. Tennessee
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 4.8%
> Federal land acreage: 1.3 million of 26.7 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (720,188 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.6%

See all stories featuring: Tennessee

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26. Louisiana
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 4.8%
> Federal land acreage: 1.4 million of 28.9 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (608,535 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.6%

See all stories featuring: Louisiana

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25. Wisconsin
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 5.1%
> Federal land acreage: 1.8 million of 35.0 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (1.5 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.0%

See all stories featuring: Wisconsin

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24. Mississippi
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 5.3%
> Federal land acreage: 1.6 million of 30.2 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (1.2 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 2.2%

See all stories featuring: Mississippi

Source: KenCanning / Getty Images

23. South Dakota
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 5.4%
> Federal land acreage: 2.6 million of 48.9 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (2.0 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 2.6%

See all stories featuring: South Dakota

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22. Minnesota
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 6.8%
> Federal land acreage: 3.5 million of 51.2 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (2.8 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.1%

See all stories featuring: Minnesota

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21. West Virginia
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 7.4%
> Federal land acreage: 1.1 million of 15.4 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (1.0 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 3.2%

See all stories featuring: West Virginia

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20. North Carolina
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 7.7%
> Federal land acreage: 2.4 million of 31.4 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (1.3 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.6%

See all stories featuring: North Carolina

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19. Vermont
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 7.8%
> Federal land acreage: 465,247 of 5.9 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (410,115 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 2.2%

See all stories featuring: Vermont

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18. Virginia
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 9.9%
> Federal land acreage: 2.5 million of 25.5 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (1.7 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 4.5%

See all stories featuring: Virginia

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17. Michigan
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 10.0%
> Federal land acreage: 3.6 million of 36.5 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (2.9 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.2%

See all stories featuring: Michigan

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16. Arkansas
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 12.6%
> Federal land acreage: 4.2 million of 33.6 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (2.6 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.6%

See all stories featuring: Arkansas

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15. Florida
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 13.0%
> Federal land acreage: 4.5 million of 34.7 million
> Leading agency: National Park Service (2.5 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.6%

See all stories featuring: Florida

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14. New Hampshire
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 13.9%
> Federal land acreage: 799,740 of 5.8 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (748,479 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.1%

See all stories featuring: New Hampshire

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13. Hawaii
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 20.0%
> Federal land acreage: 820,836 of 4.1 million
> Leading agency: National Park Service (357,937 acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 5.1%

See all stories featuring: Hawaii

Source: Kara Hollenbeck of Rogue Musings / Getty Images

12. Washington
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 28.6%
> Federal land acreage: 12.2 million of 42.7 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (9.3 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 2.2%

See all stories featuring: Washington

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11. Montana
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 29.0%
> Federal land acreage: 27.0 million of 93.3 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (17.2 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 2.8%

See all stories featuring: Montana

Source: Dean_Fikar / Getty Images

10. New Mexico
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 35.4%
> Federal land acreage: 27.5 million of 77.8 million
> Leading agency: Bureau of Land Management (14.1 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 3.4%

See all stories featuring: New Mexico

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9. Colorado
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 35.9%
> Federal land acreage: 23.8 million of 66.5 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (14.5 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.9%

See all stories featuring: Colorado

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8. Arizona
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 38.7%
> Federal land acreage: 28.1 million of 72.7 million
> Leading agency: Bureau of Land Management (12.2 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.9%

See all stories featuring: Arizona

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7. California
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 45.9%
> Federal land acreage: 46.0 million of 100.2 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (20.8 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.4%

See all stories featuring: California

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6. Wyoming
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 48.4%
> Federal land acreage: 30.2 million of 62.3 million
> Leading agency: Bureau of Land Management (18.6 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 2.6%

See all stories featuring: Wyoming

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5. Oregon
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 53.0%
> Federal land acreage: 32.6 million of 61.6 million
> Leading agency: Bureau of Land Management (16 .1 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.5%

See all stories featuring: Oregon

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4. Alaska
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 61.3%
> Federal land acreage: 224.1 million of 365.5 million
> Leading agency: Fish and Wildlife Service (76.6 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 4.6%

See all stories featuring: Alaska

Source: CodyHaskell / Getty Images

3. Idaho
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 61.6%
> Federal land acreage: 32.6 million of 52.9 million
> Leading agency: Forest Service (20.4 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.8%

See all stories featuring: Idaho

Source: TobinAkehurst / Getty Images

2. Utah
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 63.1%
> Federal land acreage: 33.3 million of 52.7 million
> Leading agency: Bureau of Land Management (22.8 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 2.4%

See all stories featuring: Utah

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1. Nevada
> Pct. of land owned by federal gov’t: 79.6%
> Federal land acreage: 55.9 million of 70.3 million
> Leading agency: Bureau of Land Management (47.0 million acres)
> Federal gov’t as pct. of workforce: 1.4%

See all stories featuring: Nevada

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