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See how much of your state is owned by the federal government

Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

Map of Federally Owned land, by state

This map shows federally owned land by state. (Bigthink)

If you want to understand the American West, you need to understand federal ownership. Basically, the government owns your tumbleweeds.

This map, created by Stanford's alumni magazine and republished by Bigthink, shows just how much federal ownership dominates the West. In effect, the map serves as a visual representation of changing land policies. The federal government kept a tighter hold on land from the 1890s on. And that time period was when the Western states were settled and formed.

Just how significant is all that federal ownership? For comparison:

  • Alaska has a massive 458,000 square miles of federally owned land. It would take more than two and a half states the size of California to fill that space.
  • The federal government owns 84.5% of Nevada. If the federal government also got 84.5% of Nevada's 2014 gambling revenues, it would be $929 million richer.
  • California's federally owned land is 74, 154 square miles. If that area were one continuous park, you could fit the following inside: Uruguay, 296,616 Disneylands, and more than three Lake Michigans.
  • Wyoming is sparsely populated, with only 582,658 people. But if you filled its federally owned land with cities the size and population of Manhattan, it would hold almost 2 billion people (surrounded by 582,658 very angry Wyoming residents).

Note that this map uses different data than the chart seen here , which accounts for any discrepancies between the two.

Update: A reader notes that the scale on the map is slightly exaggerated for readability. So, for example, the red space in Utah does not represent exactly 57.4% of the total space occupied by Utah on the map.

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