Monday, May 27, 2013

The Government Owns Most of the Land in the Western US

Back when our country was founded, government ownership of land was considered a bad thing.

When new lands became available west of the original 13 colonies in the 1800's, the Homestead Act was passed to provide an orderly transition to private ownership and development.  But somehow, during the first half of the 20th century, the government decided to transfer all remaining land to various agencies to hold in perpetuity.

Note that the Constitution does not grant the government the power to own land at all.

The magnitude of the problem is shown by this map.

Click image for larger version

I note that the Indian reservations are shown, but although they are officially government land, recent case law and other rulings have made them sovereign -- at least to an extent.

So why does the government own most of the land in the western states?  Why should they impoverish the western states (and not the eastern, mid-western, and southern states) by holding nearly all of their mineral and grazing rights?

No wonder land costs so much in the west and southwest where I want to retire.  The government owns nearly all of it west of the front range of the Rocky Mountains except for cities, strips along roads, and agricultural areas that were settled before the feds started grabbing.

They could sell it all off over the next 10 years, and easily pay off the national debt.


  1. Gov "ownership" of land is becoming worse, more extensive & infringing on private property.

    More specifically is gov control & restrictions on land -- in violation of the 5th Amendment (aka eminent domain).

    Manifesting itself mainly in "no-build" & also in non-use (ie no lumbering) often due to the ESA.

  2. I recall that in the early 1990's a couple were planning on expanding a retirement house on some desert land in Riverside County California that they had purchased a few years before. The existing house was basically a shack. In the interim, the land had been declared an endangered kangaroo rat habitat. No further building was allowed, and the property was now therefore worthless. They attempted to sue the government for their loss using the rationale that the Endangered Species Act caused a 5th Amendment "taking" to occur. The suit was disallowed, since it would result in all costs anyone incurred due to environmental regulations being considered such a "taking". They lost their investment, and had to move in with their kids for retirement.