The Real Reason The Government Owns So Much Land In These States

How does that old song go? This land is your land, this land is my land. Chances are, though, that the ground you're standing on, or living nearby, could actually be the federal government's land — especially if you live in the Western U.S. According to Ballotpedia, in fact, about 28% of all American land is in the hands of Washington. That's roughly 640 million acres out of more than 2.2 billion acres in the United States.

Why does the government own so much American countryside? The answer to that question varies, depending on the state in question. Perhaps naturally enough, though, the Bureau of Land Management oversees the most amount of acreage nationwide, but so, too, does the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service, among other agencies. According to 24/7 Wall St, The Defense Department is even in the mix. In total, only four federal agencies and departments control all the land under the purview of Washington, D.C. Also notable, more than half the land managed by the federal government is in just a handful of these Western states.

Primarily for conservation

Leading off the list of states in which the federal government owns the most land, at nearly 80%, is Nevada. Most of this acreage in Nevada is set aside for grazing, but also general conservation and outdoor tourism. Rounding out the list of states in which the federal government is the largest landowner is Oregon at 53%, Alaska and Idaho at around 61% apiece, and finally, Utah, with a little more than 63% of all available land in the hands of Washington.

The reason why the federal agencies own so much of America's Western land is all much the same, primarily conservation, outdoor recreation, and tourism. Also notably, far more of Alaska is owned in terms of sheer acreage than any other state, according to 24/7 Wall St. Nevada, however, takes the crown for most land managed by the federal government in relation to the total area of the state. Where in the United States does the federal government own the least amount of land? That distinction goes to Iowa and Connecticut, tied at .3% each, according to Ballotpedia.