This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California, to the New York Island,
From the redwood forest, to the Gulf Stream waters,
This land was made for you and me.
~ Woody Guthrie, “This Land is Your Land”
My fellow Americans — this land is not your land. This land belongs to the federal government. And what it doesn’t own it can take through its power of eminent domain.
The FY2004 Federal Real Property Profile has now been released. In it we see that the federal government owns more than 653 million acres of land. This is almost 29 percent of all the land in the United States. The federal government owns land in all fifty states, with ownership exceeding 50 percent in some states.
The following table shows what percentage of land the federal government owns in each state.
The federal government also owns 24.67 percent of the land in the District of Columbia.
Yes, the federal government only owns a small amount of land in some states. This, however, can still amount to a chunk of land. For example, the federal government owns 1.57% of the land in Alabama. That is still 513,913 acres.
In addition to all this land, the federal government owns 411,415 buildings with a total of almost 3 billion sq. ft. of building area all acquired at a cost of about $327 billion. The federal government also has 59,036 leases on 45,261 buildings with an annual rental cost to the taxpayers of just over $6 billion.
What is all this property used for? The majority of federal land is controlled by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. Forest and Wildlife account for 30.42 percent of the land, grazing accounts for 22.2 percent, and parks and historic sites account for 15.5 percent. Only 2.16 percent of federal land in the United States is used for military purposes, plus only another .06 percent for airfields. The cost of acquiring all this land: only $24.5 billion.
Even the world is not safe from the tentacles of the federal leviathan. The U.S. government owns approximately 1.5 million acres of land outside the United States. There are 4,437 buildings sitting on this land that occupy over 35 million sq. ft. of building area. The U.S. government also has 12,738 leases on 12,446 buildings on foreign soil with an annual rental cost to U.S. taxpayers of over $523 million. The United States leases property in 167 foreign countries.
Why does the U.S. government lease 733,627 sq. ft. of building area in Bolivia and 790,704 sq. ft. of building area in Colombia? Is this necessary? Do any members of Congress know about this? Do any members of Congress care about this?
To say that our government is too big would be the understatement of the century, but that is really the most accurate way to describe it. Yes, the federal government is too wasteful. And yes, the federal government is too expensive. And yes again, the federal government is too intrusive. But these things are true in a large part because the government is just plain too big.
The first step toward taming the federal leviathan is to confine it to Washington D.C. Nothing short of the largest land sale in history will bring this about.