The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) wields power over about 460 million acres of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States of America. The federal agency which folks in western states deal with on a routine basis was largely unfamiliar to residents in other parts of the nation until the Cliven Bundy standoff at Bundy ranch in Nevada. Texas rancher Tommy Henderson has also been embroiled in fight with the BLM to keep his private property for about three decades.
The Bundy ranch standoff thrust the BLM into the spotlight as the story garnered international headlines, with Nevada Senator Harry Reid referring to those protesting the actions of the armed BLM agents as “terrorists.” Researching government reports to unearth exactly how much land the federal government owns and leases in America involved scouring years of two sets of reports from separate entities.
Executive order 13327 signed by President George H. W. Bush mandated an annual accounting of all federal real property except public lands and buildings and acreage which involved matters of national security. Public domain lands not subject to the executive order include national parks, national forests, and wildlife refuge properties.
The 2012 GSA Federal Real Property Report required by the Executive Order 13327 provided the most recent statistics available for non-public land ownership. The report states that the federal government owns 43,646,357 acres of land in America. The report which included real property data from 36 federal agencies also noted that 361,318 federal buildings and 485,866 federal structures also exist in the country. The operating costs for the buildings, structures, and land totaled $33,040,945,112 in 2012. According to the report, federal land holdings increased 28 percent in total acres from the 2011 GSA Federal Real Property report and operating costs for land holdings increased by 15 percent from the prior year.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) owns 24,842 buildings on 141,156 acres of land and experienced $887,175,009 in operating costs in 2012. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) owns 171 buildings on 628 acres and experienced $75,488,398 in operating costs during the same reporting year. The Department of Energy owns 10,612 buildings on 2,297,997 acres and experienced 42,123,998,968 in facility operating costs in 2012.
Excerpt from the 2012 Federal Real Property report:
“As the largest property owner in the United States, the federal government holds a unique responsibility to properly maintain and manage its real property assets. EO 13327 mandated that executive branch departments and agencies improve their real property assed management by: promoting efficient and economical use of real property, increasing agency accountability and management attention to real property reform, and establish clear real property goals and objectives.”
The CRS Report for Congress addressing federally owned public lands stated that four agencies administer 609 million acres of the 635-640 million under the control of the federal government. The agencies include the US Forest Service (USFS) in the Department of Agriculture, the National Park Service (NPS) the BLM, and the Fish and Wildlife Service – FWS. The Department of Defense administers 19 million acres on military installations. The public lands report also noted that, “numerous other agencies administer the remaining federal acreage. The BLM is also responsible for managing 700 million acres of subsurface mineral resources.
Excerpt from the public lands report:
“The BLM has a multiple use, sustain-yield mandate that supports a variety of uses and programs, including energy development, recreation, grazing, wild horses and burros, and conservation. The USDA manages 193 million acres also for multiple uses and sustained yields of various products and services including timber harvesting, recreation, grazing, watershed protection, and fish and wildlife habitats.”
The government report goes on to state that 62 percent of Alaska is comprised of federally owned public lands and 47 percent of 11 western states is encompassed by federal public lands. “This western concentration has contributed to a higher degree of controversy over land ownership and is in that part of the country, the CRS report added.
Another excerpt from the public lands report:
“Numerous issues affecting federal land management are before Congress. They include the extent of federal ownership, and whether to decrease, maintain, or increase the amount of federal holdings; the condition of currently owned federal infrastructure and lands, and the priority of their maintenance versus new acquisitions; the optimal balance between land use and protection, and whether federal lands should be managed primarily to produce national or local benefits; and border control on federal lands along the southwest border. During the 19th century, many laws encouraged settlement of the West through federal land disposal. Mostly in the 20th century, emphasis shifted to retention of federal lands.”
Percent of land in western states under BLM public lands management:
Nevada 84.5 percent
Utah 57.4 percent
Oregon 53.1 percent
Idaho 50.2 percent
Arizona 48.1 percent
Wyoming 42.4 percent
California 45.3 percent
Colorado 36.6 percent
New Mexico 41.8 percent
What do you think about the BLM public lands and amount of real property owned by the federal government?
[Featured Image Via: WuseI007/Wikimedia Commons]