In case you’ve never heard the statistic, Texas land is about 95% privately owned. Last month I embarked on a two-week road trip through the American West and had the pleasure of visiting 8 different national parks and countless other national forests and public lands. After 5,000 miles behind the wheel (or as a snoozing co-pilot) I was back home in Texas and curious about how much public land is out there. In Texas I’m familiar with our beautiful state and national parks, but the western U.S. really lives and breathes public land in a different way.
The Western U.S.
The western U.S. contains the majority of our federal lands. Western states have an average of 47% of their land publically owned, with Nevada being almost 85% publically owned. Contrast that with the states in the rest of the continental U.S. which average 4.4%.
According to The Wilderness Society, 618 million acres of federal public land, are managed by 4 agencies. The Bureau of Land Management (245 million), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (96 million), the National Park Service (84 million), the U.S. Forest Service (193 million). There are an additional 11 million acres owned by the Department of Defense. Many of these public lands have some level of habitat protection with the strongest protection found in the approximately 109 million areas designated as wilderness areas, where no development or changes are allowed to occur. As Americans we should be grateful for the incredible amount of public land available to us (despite being disproportionately in the West). It’s a tremendous resource that I encourage everyone to take advantage of and support.
…and here’s Texas
In Texas, only 5% of land is publicaly owned which includes federal, state, and local government land. Now, Texas is so large (approximately 268,597 mi2) that 5% is about 13,340 mi2 or 8.5 million acres. I won’t pretend that it’s not a sizable amount of land because that’s larger than Rhode Island, Delaware, and Connecticut combined, but there remains a vast landscape of Texas that is privately owned. In fact, Texas has more private land than any other state. Our 255,000 mi2 of private land is larger than all of California.
What are the implications of Texas being 95% privately owned?
For land conservation, it means our stewardship and protection is in the hands of individual Texans. Private land and private property rights are pillars of what it means to be a Texan, but they can sometimes present a double edged sword. While your neighbor has every right to turn their property into a strip mall (we won’t get into zoning and city jurisdiction), you have every right to put your property under a conservation easement and protect it from development forever. We’re fortunate there is a deep ethic among the majority of Texans for taking care of the land which is critical because with great power comes great responsibility.
Texas will always be privately owned, so let’s make sure we all do our part to keep this state great, and also cherish the public lands that we do have.
NATIONAL PUBLIC LANDS DAY
Saturday, September 22nd
9:00am – 12:00pm
(2875 Pierce St. – Dallas)
Come volunteer at Oak Cliff Nature Preserve! Bring your family, friends, church or local community group, and help us keep this urban treasure beautiful!
OCNP is a 120-acre preserve in the heart of the Oak Cliff neighborhood and well-loved by the people of Dallas and visited by thousands of hikers and bikers year round. Join us in celebration of National Public Lands Day on September 22nd to pick up trash and remove invasive species from the preserve.