The Government's Enormous, Ongoing Private Land Grab


1. The Government’s Ongoing Property “War on the West”
2. Government Land Grab Has Intensified Last 50 Years
3. Why More Government Ownership of Land is a Bad Idea
4. Conclusions: Reign in Government, Build More Infrastructure


Last week was a slow time for news on the economic front, the political front and in the markets for the most part, so I struggled to find a good topic to write about for today. As always, I like to write about what interests me most, and that led me back to something I read in March, which I will share with you today.

The topic is how much land the federal government owns and controls. We all know the federal government owns a lot of land around the country. You know – national parks, protected forests, tribal reservations, fish and wildlife refuges, rivers, historical battlefields and other sensitive areas. But I’ll bet you don’t know just how much of America the federal government owns. I sure didn’t, until last month. That’s what we’ll talk about today.

Now before you jump to any conclusions, let me assure you this is not a political issue. The government land grab has been going on for well over 200 years under both Democrats and Republicans. In that sense, it is political but it’s bipartisan.

There are several questions regarding the federal land grab: How does the government take control of privately-owned lands; what authority does it have to do this; and how does it pay for it? I’ll touch on all of those questions as we go along. Let’s get started.

The Government’s Ongoing Property “War on the West”

Sometimes, it’s best to start with a chart, especially if it’s a good one. Before you look at it, take a few seconds to guess how much of the land in the western United States the federal government owns. Would you think 20%, 30%, 40% or more or less? Now let’s take a look.

Federally Controlled Land in the US

As you can see, the federal government owns, in one way or another, the vast majority of the land in the western United States including Alaska. Note the dramatic contrast with what little the government owns in the eastern half of the country.