Special Report

How Much Land in Each State Is Owned by the Government

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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, over half of the land is. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the Congressional Research Service’s February 2020 report “Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data” to determine how much land the federal government owns in every state. Land ownership estimates by federal agency and total federal land ownership are as of 2018, the most recent year available. 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 2019.

It is important to note that the vast majority of federal land — over 96% — falls under the purview of one of only five agencies: the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the Department of Defense. For the purposes of this story, only lands owned by these five agencies were considered. 

Of those five federal agencies, the Bureau of Land Management owns the most land, at 244.4 million acres, followed by the U.S. Forest Service, which manages 192.9 million acres. Federal lands are largely concentrated in the West, with only about 10% of federal land located east of the Mississippi River. 

While it is far from the largest federal landholder — 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 62 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 best national parks to visit in the fall

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 many of the states where the U.S. government owns the largest share of total land, a relatively small share of the overall workforce is employed by federal agencies.  Here is a look at the states where the most people work for the government.

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

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50. Connecticut
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 0.3%
> Federal land in state: 9,110 acres (2nd least)
> Agency owning most land: National Park Service (5,846 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.1% (2nd lowest)

The federal government owns just over 9,000 acres in the small New England state of Connecticut — equal to only 0.3% of all land in the state. The National Park Service controls 5,846 acres of land, more than any other federal agency. Land that falls under the NPS’s purview in the state includes parts of the Appalachian Trail and the New England Scenic Trail. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, with stations located in Westbrook and Tolland, Connecticut, is the second largest federal landholder in the state, with a footprint of 1,754 acres.

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49. Iowa
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 0.3%
> Federal land in state: 97,509 acres (5th least)
> Agency owning most land: Fish and Wildlife Service (73,427 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.1% (4th lowest)

Through various departments and agencies, the federal government controls 0.3% of land in Iowa, or about 97,500 acres. A sizable portion of that land is under the purview of the Department of Defense, which owns and operates Camp Dodge, an army national guard camp in Johnston, and the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant outside of Des Moines.

The largest share of federal land in Iowa, however, is controlled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. The federal department controls wildlife refuges all over the state and has offices in Missouri Valley, Prairie City, Wapello, Titonka, and Indianola.

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48. Kansas
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 0.5%
> Federal land in state: 253,919 acres (9th least)
> Agency owning most land: Department of Defense (115,326 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.8% (24th highest)

The Department of Defense is the largest federal landholder in Kansas. Through various bases, including Fort Riley, an Army base near Manhattan, Kansas, and the Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range, in central Kansas, the DoD owns over 115,000 acres in the state. The National Forest Service, the second largest federal landholder in the state, partially manages the Cimarron National Grassland, which comprises Kansas’s southwestern corner.

47. Rhode Island
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 0.7%
> Federal land in state: 4,513 acres (the least)
> Agency owning most land: Fish and Wildlife Service (2,415 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 2.2% (16th highest)

The federal government owns less than 5,000 acres in Rhode Island, the smallest footprint of any state. Still, Rhode Island is also the smallest state in the country, and the federal land accounts for 0.7% of all land in the state, the fourth smallest share among states.

The Department of Defense operates several naval stations in the state, the largest of which is located in Newport. The Department of Fish and Wildlife, which manages a number of wildlife refuges, including Block Island, John H. Chafee, Ninigret, Sachuest Point, and Trustom Pond, is the largest federal landholder in the state.

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46. New York
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 0.8%
> Federal land in state: 230,992 acres (8th least)
> Agency owning most land: Department of Defense (151,233 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.2% (7th lowest)

New York is one of three states in the Northeast to rank among the five in which the federal government controls the smallest share of land. Federal departments and agencies own a combined 230,992 acres in New York, or just 0.8% of the state’s total land area.

Largely because of Fort Drum, an Army base near Watertown that is home to the 10th Mountain Division, the Department of Defense has far and away the largest geographic footprint in New York, controlling over 151,000 acres.

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45. Nebraska
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 1.1%
> Federal land in state: 546,852 acres (15th least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (351,205 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.7% (25th lowest)

The federal government owns just over half a million acres in Nebraska, or about 1.1% of the state’s total land area. Over half of that land is under the purview of the U.S. Forest Service. Land managed by the USFS includes the Oglala National Grassland, Soldier Creek Wilderness, and Nebraska National Forest in the northwest corner of the state, as well as the Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest in the north central part of the state.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also manages a substantial 174,401 acres in Nebraska, and the Department of Defense owns about 10,000 acres in the state.

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44. Illinois
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 1.2%
> Federal land in state: 423,782 acres (13th least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (304,538 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.3% (12th lowest)

The U.S Forest Service controls over 300,000 of the nearly 424,000 acres of federal-managed land in Illinois. The Shawnee National Forest in the southern part of the state accounts for much of that land. The Fish and Wildlife Service is the second largest federal landholder in the state, with 90,000 acres, followed by the Department of Defense with nearly 30,000 acres.

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43. Massachusetts
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 1.2%
> Federal land in state: 62,680 acres (4th least)
> Agency owning most land: National Park Service (33,336 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.2% (11th lowest)

Massachusetts is one of several Northeastern states where the federal government has a relatively small footprint. Federal departments and agencies control 62,680 acres in the state, or just 1.2% of the total land area.

Over half of all federal land in the state is owned by the National Park Service. Though there are no national parks in Massachusetts, there are several historical sites and parks managed by the NPS, in addition to the Cape Cod National Seashore and a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

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42. Ohio
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 1.2%
> Federal land in state: 305,502 acres (11th least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (244,440 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.4% (14th lowest)

Of the 305,502 acres of Ohio land managed by the federal government, 80% are controlled by the Forest Service. The Wayne National Forest, managed by the USFS, covers large sections of land in the southeastern portion of the state.

The Department of Defense is the second largest federal landholder in the Buckeye State. Between bases including the National Guard Ravenna Training and Log Site and the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the DoD accounts for about 10% federal land in Ohio.

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41. Maine
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 1.5%
> Federal land in state: 301,481 acres (10th least)
> Agency owning most land: National Park Service (156,205 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 2.5% (12th highest)

The National Park Service owns 156,205 acres of land in Maine, or just over half of all federal land in the state. Acadia National Park, which sits along much of Maine’s coastline, is one of the most popular National Parks in the country, tallying 3.5 million visits annually. The park boasts 158 miles of hiking trails. One end of the 2,180-mile long Appalachian Trail also lies in Maine.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services owns about one-quarter of federally-managed land in Maine, and the Forest Service owns about 18%.

40. Oklahoma
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 1.5%
> Federal land in state: 683,289 acres (17th least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (399,578 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 2.9% (7th highest)

The federal government owns about 1.5% of all land in Oklahoma, or 683,289 acres. Nearly 400,000 of those acres are under the purview of the Forest Service. The FS manages several large tracts of land in the state, including the Black Kettle National Grassland and parts of the Ouachita National Forest.

The second largest federal landholder in Oklahoma is the Department of Defense. Through a number of bases, including the National Guard’s Camp Gruber, the Fort Sill Army base, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, and Tinker Air Force Base, the DoD owns about one-quarter of all federal land in Oklahoma.

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39. Indiana
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 1.7%
> Federal land in state: 384,726 acres (12th least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (204,318 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.2% (10th lowest)

Nearly 385,000 acres in Indiana are owned by the federal government, or 1.7% of all land in the state. The majority of that land is controlled by the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the Hoosier National Forest in southern Indiana. Most of the remaining 180,000 acres of federally managed land in the state are controlled by the Department of Defense. Large military bases in the state include the Crane Naval Support Station, the Army’s Jefferson Proving Ground, and the National Guard’s Camp Atterbury.

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38. Texas
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 1.9%
> Federal land in state: 3.2 million acres (16th most)
> Agency owning most land: National Park Service (1.2 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.6% (19th lowest)

The federal government owns just under 2% of all land in Texas. The state is one of only six nationwide where the National Park Service is the largest federal landholder. The Lone Star State is home to two national parks — Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Big Bend — in addition to two national monuments, several national historical parks, sites and trails, and recreation areas, all managed by the NPS.

Texas is also home to Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, some of the largest Army bases in the United States. The Department of Defense owns about one-fifth of all federal land in the state.

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37. Pennsylvania
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 2.2%
> Federal land in state: 622,160 acres (16th least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (513,891 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.6% (23rd lowest)

The vast majority of the 622,160 acres in Pennsylvania that belong to the federal government are controlled by the U.S. Forest Service. The Allegheny National Forest in the northwestern corner of the state accounts for nearly all of the Forest Service’s footprint in the Keystone State.

The National Park Service controls 8.6% of all federal land in Pennsylvania, making it the state’s second largest federal landholder. NPS land in Pennsylvania includes Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville — the crash site of one of the four commercial aircraft that were hijacked during the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

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36. Delaware
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 2.4%
> Federal land in state: 29,918 acres (3rd least)
> Agency owning most land: Fish and Wildlife Service (25,543 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.2% (9th lowest)

Over 85% of the 29,918 federally owned acres in Delaware are under the purview of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency manages the Bombay Hook and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuges and the Delaware Bay Estuary Project as well as a law enforcement office in Dover.

The Department of Defense is the second largest federal landholder in the state, controlling about 3,500 acres — most of which are used by the Dover Air Force Base.

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35. Alabama
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 2.7%
> Federal land in state: 880,188 acres (21st least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (670,889 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 2.6% (10th highest)

Some 54,000 federal government employees work in Alabama, equivalent to 2.6% of the state’s employment — the 10th largest share of all states. While the state has a relatively high number of federal employees, federal land ownership is relatively low in the state. Approximately 70% of state land is forests, one of the highest shares of any state.

Over three-quarters of the 670,000 federal acres in Alabama are managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The state is home to several major national forests, including the Talladega National Forest and the William B. Bankhead National Forest.

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34. Maryland
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 3.2%
> Federal land in state: 205,362 acres (7th least)
> Agency owning most land: Department of Defense (113,487 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 5.3% (the highest)

Maryland is one of only three states where the federal agency managing the most land in the state is the Department of Defense. In large part due to its proximity to the nation’s capital, the state is home to five major military bases and a total of over 100 DoD facilities. These include Fort George G. Meade and the over 70,000 acre Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Close to 2% of Maryland’s total acreage is DoD-managed land, the second-highest share of any state.

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33. New Jersey
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 3.6%
> Federal land in state: 171,956 acres (6th least)
> Agency owning most land: Fish and Wildlife Service (73,785 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.2% (5th lowest)

New Jersey is one of five states where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the agency that manages the largest share of federal-owned land. The FWS manages the 47,000 acre Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge on the state shoreline, North of Atlantic City, among other lands.

The Department of Defense also controls more than 60,000 acres — the state is home to the over 40,000 acre Joint Base McGuire — Dix — Lakehurst near Trenton.

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32. Missouri
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 3.8%
> Federal land in state: 1.7 million acres (24th most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (1.5 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.9% (21st highest)

Nearly all of the 1.7 million acres of federally-owned land in Missouri are controlled by the Forest Service. The Mark Twain National Forest covers much of the southern part of the state and accounts for most of the 1.5 million acres the Forest Service manages in the state. The Department of Defense also owns over 79,000 acres of Missouri, including Fort Leonard Wood. The Fish and Wildlife Service owns over 61,000 acres, spread out among several national wildlife refuges.

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31. North Dakota
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 3.9%
> Federal land in state: 1.7 million acres (23rd most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (1.1 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 2.1% (19th highest)

The federal government owns 1.7 million acres in North Dakota, equivalent to nearly 4% of state land. Of that, the Forest Service controls 1.1 million acres, most of which comprises the over 1 million acre Little Missouri National Grassland in the western part of the state. It is the largest national grassland in the country.

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.

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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.

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25. Georgia
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 5.2%
> Federal land in state: 1.9 million acres (21st most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (867,580 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 2.2% (15th highest)

As is the case with many other states in the southeastern U.S, the Forest Services controls the largest share of federal land in Georgia — nearly 868,000 acres. The state is home to the Savannah River Site, the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests, as well as large portions of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests.

Due to the presence of several large Army bases, including Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, the Department of Defense also owns over half a million acres of land in Georgia.

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24. Wisconsin
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 5.3%
> Federal land in state: 1.9 million acres (22nd most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (1.5 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.0% (the lowest)

Over 80% of the 1.9 million federally-owned acres in Wisconsin are managed by the U.S. Forest Service, which controls the 1.5 million acre Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Between 1990 and 2018, the total federal land area in the state fell by 6.4%, or over 126,000 acres, by either measure one of the largest declines of any state over that period.

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23. South Dakota
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 5.4%
> Federal land in state: 2.6 million acres (18th most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (2.0 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 2.6% (11th highest)

The U.S. Forest Service manages three-quarters of South Dakota’s federal land, with most of that land located in the southwest part of the state. The agency manages several national grasslands and national forests, including the Black Hills National Forest, within which is the iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

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22. Minnesota
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 6.8%
> Federal land in state: 3.5 million acres (15th most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (2.8 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.1% (3rd lowest)

The majority of Minnesota’s 3.5 million acres of federal land are owned by the Forest Service, primarily in the northeastern part of the state, along the border with Canada and Lake Superior.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is also in charge of over half a million acres, accounting for 14.7% of Minnesota’s federal land. Minnesota is one of just two states in which the Department of Defense controls 2,000 or fewer acres of land.

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21. West Virginia
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 7.4%
> Federal land in state: 1.1 million acres (23rd least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (1.0 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 3.3% (6th highest)

The federal government owns 7.4% of land in West Virginia. The vast majority of 1.1 million acres of federal land in the state are controlled by the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the Monongahela National Forest. The National Park Service is the second largest federal landholder in the state, controlling 65,554 acres. The Bluestone National Scenic River, the National Coal Heritage Area, and the Wheeling National Heritage Area, among others, all fall under the purview of the NPS in West Virginia.

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20. North Carolina
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 7.8%
> Federal land in state: 2.4 million acres (19th most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (1.3 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.6% (24th lowest)

The Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Department of Defense, each control over 1% of the total landmass in North Carolina, well more than in most states. Still, slightly over half of North Carolina’s 2.4 million federal acres are owned by the Forest Service. This land is dedicated in part to the Pisgah National Forest on the western tip of the state.

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19. Vermont
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 7.8%
> Federal land in state: 465,888 acres (14th least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (410,654 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 2.2% (14th highest)

Along with New Hampshire, Vermont is one of only two states in the Northeast where over 7% of land is owned by the federal government. Over 88% of the 465,888 acres of federally owned land in Vermont are controlled by the U.S. Forest Service. The Green Mountain National Forest, managed by the FS, is the only federally managed national forest in Vermont. The second largest federal landholder in Vermont is the Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages 34,195 acres, followed by the Department of Defense, which owns 11,203 acres.

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18. Virginia
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 9.3%
> Federal land in state: 2.4 million acres (20th most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (1.7 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 4.5% (4th highest)

The federal government owns 2.4 million acres of land in Virginia, or 9.3% of all land in the state. Largely through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service alone manages 6.5% of all land in the state.

Virginia is also home to multiple national monuments, historical parks, and trails that are under the purview of the National Park Service, which owns over 300,000 acres of land in the state. Through more than 100 bases, including Quantico, Fort A.P. Hill, and Fort Pickett, the Department of Defense also controls nearly 266,000 acres of land in Virginia.

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17. Arkansas
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 9.4%
> Federal land in state: 3.2 million acres (17th most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (2.6 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.6% (18th lowest)

Arkansas is home to the Ouachita National Forest, as well as the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. Largely through these federally-managed areas, the U.S. Forest Services owns 2.6 million acres of land in Arkansas, or 7.7% of all land in the state. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the only other federal agency with a substantial footprint in the state, controlling nearly 380,000 acres, or 12.0%, of all federal land in Arkansas. The Department of Defense, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service each control less than 1% of land in Arkansas.

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16. Michigan
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 10.0%
> Federal land in state: 3.6 million acres (14th most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (2.9 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.2% (8th lowest)

Michigan is one of 16 states where the federal government owns at least one in every 10 acres of land. Largely through the Huron-Manistee National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service alone owns 2.9 million acres of land in the state. The National Park Service controls an additional 632,280 acres of land in Michigan through Isle Royale National Park and several other historic areas and scenic trails.

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15. Florida
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 12.9%
> Federal land in state: 4.5 million acres (13th most)
> Agency owning most land: National Park Service (2.5 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.6% (20th lowest)

Florida is one of a half dozen states where the National Park Service controls the largest share of state federal land. The NPS manages close to 2.5 million acres in Florida, the fourth most of any state. The largest part of NPS-controlled land in the state is the 1.5 million acre Everglades National Park, one of the world’s largest wetlands.

Other bureaus control major parts of Florida, including the Department of Defense, which manages 522,734 acres in the state. There are 188 DoD sites in the state, including four major military bases. Notably, the Eglin Air Force Base covers almost 450,000 acres in the Florida panhandle.

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14. New Hampshire
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 14.0%
> Federal land in state: 805,472 acres (18th least)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (753,921 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.2% (6th lowest)

The federal government owns 14.0% of land area in New Hampshire, by far the largest share of any state in the Northeast and the 14th largest share of any state nationwide. Largely through the White Mountain National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service alone controls 753,921 acres in New Hampshire, or 13.1% of the state’s total land area. Other federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the Department of Defense own less than 1% of land area in the state each.

13. Hawaii
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 20.2%
> Federal land in state: 829,830 acres (19th least)
> Agency owning most land: National Park Service (358,160 acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 5.2% (2nd highest)

In the majority of states, the U.S. Forest Service has the largest footprint of any federal agency or department. Hawaii, however, is one of only a handful of states in which the U.S. Forest Service manages no land whatsoever. The largest federal landowner in Hawaii is the National Park Service, which — through two national parks, several national historic sites and parks, and the Pearl Harbor National Memorial — owns 358,160 acres in the state.

The Department of Defense also has a large footprint in the state, controlling over 162,000 acres through more than 100 bases, including the Army’s massive Pohakuloa Training Area.

Source: Alexander Fattal / iStock via Getty Images

12. Washington
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 28.6%
> Federal land in state: 12.2 million acres (12th most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (9.3 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 2.2% (18th highest)

Nearly 12.2 million acres in Washington state are managed by the federal government, equivalent to more than 28% of Washington’s total landmass. Large sections of the Cascade Mountains in the central part of the state, as well as the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, which is roughly 4 million acres in size. These areas are managed by the National Park Service and the Forest Service.

The Department of Defense also controls approximately 420,000 acres, or roughly 1% of the state land. This includes the approximately 300,000-acre Yakima Training Center.

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11. Montana
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 29.0%
> Federal land in state: 27.1 million acres (9th most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (17.2 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 2.8% (8th highest)

The federal government owns 27 million acres of land in Montana, or 29% of the state’s total land area. Over half of all federal land in the state is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, and nearly 30% is controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. The National Park Service owns 1.2 million acres of land in the state, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service owns another 653,000 acres.

10. New Mexico
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 31.7%
> Federal land in state: 24.7 million acres (10th most)
> Agency owning most land: Bureau of Land Management (13.5 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 3.4% (5th highest)

More than 30% of New Mexico land is owned by the federal government, equivalent to nearly 25 million acres. More than half of federally-owned land in the state falls under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management — much of New Mexico’s BLM-administered territory is for the purposes of managing subsurface minerals.

The state is also home to White Sands Missile Range, which, at 3.5 million acres, is the largest military base in the United States by landmass.

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9. Colorado
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 36.2%
> Federal land in state: 24.1 million acres (11th most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (14.5 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.9% (22nd highest)

The U.S. Forest Service owns 14.5 million acres of land in Colorado — a larger area than the entirety of Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, and New Jersey combined. The FS manages a number of national forests in the state, including the White River, Medicine Bow-Routt, Arapaho, and Roosevelt forests, among others. As is the case in many Western states, the Bureau of Land Management also has a large footprint in Colorado, managing nearly 8.4 million acres.

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8. Arizona
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 38.6%
> Federal land in state: 28.1 million acres (8th most)
> Agency owning most land: Bureau of Land Management (12.1 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.9% (20th highest)

The Department of Defense and the Bureau of Land Management have reduced the land they own in Arizona over the last three decades. In all, federally-owned land in the state is 18.4% smaller now. Even with this decline, almost 40% of the state is still federally-controlled, equivalent to 28 million acres, nearly the size of the state of Pennsylvania.

Four of the five major bureaus managing federally-owned land control at least 1 million acres in the state, with the BLM responsible for the largest share — 12.1 million acres.

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7. California
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 45.4%
> Federal land in state: 45.5 million acres (3rd most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (20.8 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.4% (15th lowest)

Nearly one in every two acres in California are owned by the federal government. While the largest share of federal land in the state is controlled by the Forest Service — through a number of national forests including Lassen, Sierra, Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity, Sequoia, and Six Rivers — the Department of Defense also owns more land in California than it does in any other state. Through hundreds of military bases, including Camp Pendleton, a massive Marine Corps base north of San Diego, the DoD controls 1.7 million acres in California.

California is also home to a number of federally managed national parks including Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and Yosemite. These, and other national monuments, recreation areas, historic sites, and preserves comprise the 7.6 million acres of land in the state owned by the National Park Service.

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6. Wyoming
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 46.7%
> Federal land in state: 29.1 million acres (7th most)
> Agency owning most land: Bureau of Land Management (17.5 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 2.6% (9th highest)

The Bureau of Land Management owns more than one-quarter of Wyoming’s total land area. Wyoming is a resource- rich state, and through production royalties levied on energy companies, the BLM reported $385.2 million in coal royalties and $733.2 in oil and gas royalties in 2019 — much of which went directly to the state of Wyoming. BLM land in Wyoming is also available for public use and recreational activities like hunting and hiking.

The U.S. Forest Service owns an additional 9.2 million acres in Wyoming. The FS manages the Thunder Basin National Grassland and a number of national forests, including Shoshone and Bridger-Teton. Wyming is also home to Yellowstone National Park, one of the larger national parks in the country.

Source: icetsarina / Flickr

5. Oregon
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 52.3%
> Federal land in state: 32.2 million acres (6th most)
> Agency owning most land: Bureau of Land Management (15.7 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.5% (16th lowest)

More than half the landmass of the state of Oregon — 32.2 million acres — is federally-owned, one of five states in which this is the case. Most of the state’s federal land is nearly evenly split between the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

Federal land includes the 2.3 million-acre Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and the 1.6 million-acre Willamette National Forest.

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4. Alaska
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 60.9%
> Federal land in state: 222.7 million acres (the most)
> Agency owning most land: Fish and Wildlife Service (76.6 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 4.5% (3rd highest)

Alaska is the largest state in the country by landmass, and most of the land in the state is owned by the federal government. Federal agencies and departments own a combined 222.7 million acres in Alaska, more than five times the total landmass of all New England.

The two largest federal landholders in the state are the Fish and Wildlife Service, which owns 76.6 million acres, and the Bureau of Land Management, which owns 71.4 million acres. Alaska is also home to the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, which, according to the National Park Foundation, is larger than Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Switzerland combined.

3. Idaho
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 61.9%
> Federal land in state: 32.8 million acres (5th most)
> Agency owning most land: Forest Service (20.4 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.7% (25th highest)

Over 60% of Idaho’s land — 32.8 million acres — is owned by the federal government — and nearly all of it controlled either by the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service.

The FS alone controls close to 40% of the state land, the largest share of any state. This includes the 4.3 million-acre Salmon-Challis National Forest, within which is the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, the largest contiguous wilderness in the continental United States.

2. Utah
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 63.1%
> Federal land in state: 33.3 million acres (4th most)
> Agency owning most land: Bureau of Land Management (22.8 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 2.4% (13th highest)

Utah is one of several western states in which the Bureau of Land Management owns the vast majority of federal land. BLM lands, such as the Henry Mountains, Nine Mile Canyon, and parts of Moab, are open for public use and recreational activities like hunting, hiking, mountain biking, and rafting. The next largest land holding federal agency in the state is the Forest Service, which owns 8.2 million acres, or about a quarter of Utah’s federal land area. The FS manages multiple national forests across the state, including Fishlake, Dixie, Ashley, and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache.

Utah is also home to some of the most iconic and popular national parks in the country, including Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Zion. Through these, and other parks and monuments, the National Park Service owns two million acres in the state.

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1. Nevada
> Land owned by federal gov’t: 80.1%
> Federal land in state: 56.3 million acres (2nd most)
> Agency owning most land: Bureau of Land Management (47.3 million acres)
> Federal employment as pct. of workforce: 1.4% (13th lowest)

Nevada achieved statehood in 1864, 18 years after Mexico gave up the territory following the Mexican-American War. One term included in Nevada’s statehood was that all land not already claimed would be controlled by the government. Today, four out of every five acres in Nevada are still federally owned, by far the largest share in the country. Of this, 47 million acres are administered by the Bureau of Land management, almost one-fifth of the total landmass controlled by the BLM within the 50 states.

Nevada is also home to Nellis Air Force Range, the second largest U.S. military installation by landmass, as well as a smaller but nonetheless iconic DoD site — Area 51.

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