Issues

Government Owns 28 Percent of Land in United States

Movement grows to transfer land from federal government to states

Alaska
A driver passes the King Cove small boat harbor / AP

The federal government owns 28 percent of the land in the United States, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.

"Federal land ownership is concentrated in the West," explains the service. "Specifically, 62% of Alaska is federally owned, as is 47% of the 11 coterminous western states. By contrast, the federal government owns only 4% of lands in the other states."

There has been a growing movement to transfer land from the federal government to states. According to a report from Newsmax, 36 bills have been introduced in state legislatures to move this effort forward.

For example, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) introduced legislation that would advance a land transfer between Alaska and the federal government to allow the construction of a road that would provide local residents with access to medical care in emergency situations.

The road would connect King Cove, which is currently only accessible by air and water, to Cold Bay, a place to get safe and reliable transport for patients in emergencies.

"At least 19 deaths have been attributed to the lack of a land route to Cold Bay, either because of plane crashes or an inability to get timely medical treatment, including four people who died in a 1980 medevac crash," according to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Department of Interior secretary Sally Jewell opposes building the road because it would harm wildlife and the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

"Building a road through the Refuge would cause irreversible damage not only to the Refuge itself, but to the wildlife that depend on it," said Jewell. "Izembek is an extraordinary place—internationally recognized as vital to a rich diversity of species—and we owe it to future generations to think about long-term solutions that do not insert a road through the middle of this Refuge and designated wilderness."