Special Report

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

30. Kentucky
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 4.3%
> Federal land in state: 1.1 million acres (22nd least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (818,268 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.8% (23rd highest)

As is true of most states, the National Forest Service accounts for the largest share of Kentucky’s federally owned land, managing approximately 75% of the state’s 1.1 million acres of federal land. The most substantial FS property is Daniel Boone National Forest, which is located in the eastern part of the state and covers over 700,000 acres.

Kentucky is also home to Fort Knox. The famous home of the U.S. Bullion Depository is over 100,000 acres in total.

Source: KeithBriley / iStock via Getty Images

29. South Carolina
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 4.5%
> Federal land in state: 875,316 acres (20th least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (634,594 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.6% (21st lowest)

Over 875,000 acres in South Carolina are owned by the federal government, accounting for 4.5% of the state’s total land area. Like most other states, the majority of federal land in the state belongs to the Forest Service. The FS manages Sumter National Forest in the northwestern part of the state and Francis Marion National Forest along the Atlantic Coast.

South Carolina is also home to several military installations owned by the Department of Defense, including Fort Jackson, Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station, Shaw Air Force Base, and more.

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28. Louisiana
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 4.7%
> Federal land in state: 1.4 million acres (25th least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (608,546 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.6% (17th lowest)

The federal government owns about 1.4 million acres of land in Louisiana. The largest share of that land is controlled by the U.S. Forest Service. The agency manages the Kisatchie National Forest, which spans over 600,000 acres and is open to the public for recreational activities like camping, hiking, and hunting. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service controls another 582,000 acres in Louisiana, and through bases like Fort Polk, the Department of Defense owns nearly 143,000 acres.

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27. Tennessee
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 4.8%
> Federal land in state: 1.3 million acres (24th least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (722,057 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.6% (22nd lowest)

The federal government owns approximately 1.3 million acres in Tennessee, or about 1 in 20 state acres. Like the majority of U.S. states, the Forest Service manages the largest share of the state’s federal acreage, much of which includes the 650,000 acre Cherokee National Forest.

About half of the National Parks Service-managed 522,427 acre Great Smoky Mountain National Park lies within the state.

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26. Mississippi
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 5.1%
> Federal land in state: 1.6 million acres (25th most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (1.2 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 2.2% (17th highest)

Mississippi is one of 26 states in which the federal government owns over 5% of land area. More than three-quarters of the 1.6 million acres of federal land in the state is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Mississippi is home to a number of national forests, including Beinville, Tombigbee, De Soto, Homochitto, Holly Springs, and Delta.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the second largest federal landholder in the state, with 211,438 acres, and the National Park Service is the third largest, with 104,369 acres.