How Much Land Has Been Saved

This section is incomplete 


In the U.S., as of 2002, 614.4 million acres were owned and managed by the BLM (242 million), Fish and Wildlife Service (16 million), the Forest Service (192.5 million) and the National Park Service (25.7 million).  As well, the Department of Defense owns 28 million, the Bureau of Reclamation, 8.5 million, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 11.7 million, the Conservation Reserve (USDA), 34 million and the Wetlands Reserve Program oversees 1.5 million acres, which amounts to another 83.7 million.


State lands total 200 million acres, bringing the total of land under Federal and State control to 814.4 million acres, or 35% of the U.S. land base of 2.3 billion acres.


The Forest Service has classified 35 million acres as wilderness, National Parks have 44 million acres classed as wilderness, Fish and Wildlife, 21 million acres and the Bureau of Land Management 7 million acres, for a total of 107 million acres designated formal wilderness by the Federal government.


As Holly Fretwell describes, since the Wilderness Act of 1964, the amount of land, congressionally designated in restricted use has quadrupled.  The Forest Service has more than 30 classifications that restrict lands from multiple use.  These are:  areas of critical environmental concern, special interest areas, natural areas, semi-primitive and primitive areas, restricted roadless areas, non-motorized areas and special management plans.  Including these, as of 2000, federal lands designated as conservation area stood at 337 million acres.  These include the following:


Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan           23 million acres

Northwest Forest Plan                  24 million acres

Sierra Nevada Framework            11 million acres


Executive and Monument designations are another way of moving land to no-use or heavily restricted use.


Carter set aside   58 million acres

Clinton                6 million acres

Clinton Roadless 58.5 million acres


Executive and Monument designations, created by the President’s sole discretion, total 122.5 million acres.  An additional 60 monument designations have been mapped and designated and await President Obama’s signature.


Private lands protected by federal decree total as follows:  Wetlands, 1.5 million acres, Conservation Reserve Program, 34 million acres, Habitat Conservation Plans, 39 million acres and Safe Harbor Agreements, 1 million acres.  Private lands protected by federal decree total 75.5 million acres.


Conservation easements as of 2005 totaled 6.246 million acres.  By 2010, that figure stood at 8 million.


The number of private land trusts in the U.S. stands at 1,723.  The Nature Conservancy claims to have 12 million acres under conservation. Other national, State and local land trusts claim as of 2010, to have an additional 27 million acres under conservation.


This brings the number of acres under conservation to 689 million.


Equally, 80% of the 157.5 million acres of Forest Service lands (192.5 million acres, less 35 million in formally designated wilderness) have had logging and grazing curtailed.  Which adds another 126 million acres to the no-use or strictly limited use category, bringing the total amount of land under de facto conservation to 815 million acres. 


Therefore, 815 million acres have been preserved by the federal government or private land trusts.  Additional lands are preserved by each state.


Figures are taken from the 2010 reports of the various agencies and institutions like the Land Trust Alliance Census Report 2010, Conservation Almanac, the Conservation Biology Institute, the World Wildlife Fund USA, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.


Since 1951, agriculture land in use in the U.S. has declined by 260 million acres.  (Cox 72)
Since 1951, the amount of open space land in the U.S. has risen from 47% to 53% (Cox 73)


2.5% of U.S. land is urbanized, leaving 97.4% as rural (Cox 73).  Only 5.6% of U.S. land has been developed.


In 2011, the Bureau of Land Management received one billion dollars to acquire another 213,000,000 acres.  (leaked Department of Interior memo, Indiana office)


Because land is in process of being moved from multiple-use to limited or no-use, I will update these numbers as reports are released.



British Columbia Land Saved


Six hundred and fifty-seven thousand square miles (18%) of our land mass and thousands of square kilometers of coastal waters are under conservation:  no condo-building, farming, fishing, trapping, mining, or forestry will ever take place on those lands or in that stretch of ocean.  There are more than 900 national, provincial and local parks in B.C., and 147 ecological reserves.6  New protected areas are added every year by a government which does so in a flush of expectation that gimlet-eyed environmentalists will praise its virtue.  Cheap at any price, you'd think, but doubly cheap to the party in power.  Since 94% of British Columbia is already owned by the Crown, much of this preservation is merely a shuffling of the legal descriptions. Some of this crown land is leased to forestry and mining companies because this is, after all, what still pays the big bills.  A few of them used to leave spectacular messes, but not any more.  If the government does not demand the highest and best environmental practices, it risks an equally spectacular shellacking in the press.  There is little doubt that as soon as the government can replace the annual billion or so that forestry pays in tax to the public purse, all forestry will have to measure up to Forest Stewardship Council standardsThe pace of change is just too rapid, almost all sentiment on the side of the forest.    


            Only 6% of B.C. is privately owned; the rest belongs to the government.  Subtract from that 6% the 4.7 million hectares of private land under the control of the Agricultural Land Reserve, which protects fertile farmland around cities, and you have about 2% of B.C. available for unrestricted human use.  The competition for that land is therefore fierce and since development control up-scales everything, that land is expensive beyond belief, especially considering we live in a place so big and vastly, ridiculously empty.


            There are four large private land preservation organizations operating in British Columbia and 25 local conservancies, all of which list land acquisition as their top priority.  The Land Conservancy of B.C. is responsible for 36,000 hectares, the Nature Conservancy of Canada protects a whopping 179,200 hectares, the Nature Trust 61,000, and Ducks Unlimited 140,000 hectares, adding up to almost half a million hectares. Most of this is biologically significant land deemed necessary to preserve in amber; counted up it represents another .6% taken out of the land bank, leaving a laughable 1.4% of B.C. left for private land owners.

6          Land Trusts and Conservancies in B.C.  A Survey by the Land Trust Alliance of B.C.  Summary by John Scull, 2003; also Conservation Data Center; Land Trust Alliance of B.C.; Friends of Ecological Reserves, B.C


Land Saved Britain


In 2000, science writer and Oxford don Matt Ridley wrote an essay he called Controlling the British Countryside describing how the alienation of land from its owner began in Britain, and how it has been prosecuted.  In 1919, in response to a shortage of lumber after the first World War, the Forestry Commission began acquiring forests in order to harvest timber for the state.  It now owns more than 800,000 hectares  - almost 2 million acres in England, and an additional 6% of Scotland.  The Commision loses $75 million every single year.  Not only that, early on the Commission replaced native moorland with plantations of exotic Sitka spruce in even-age, densely spaced forests, which offer little employment.  The stands mar the landscapes and disrupt  indigenous biotic relationships.  From there the Commission went on to acquire the rights to regulate trees on private lands as well, and now controls all planting and felling in the British countryside.  You must apply to cut down a single tree, even on your own land, and  the Commission has the right to micro-manage your re-planting, the choice of tree and its location.  Permits, fines and fees are rife, and processing drags on endlessly.


            Acquiring land in Britain began to be seen as unnecessarily expensive by the various government agencies, so other regulatory bodies decided to go the subsidize-and-regulate route, despite the fact there is considerable literature arguing that subsidies inevitably cause gluts, overgrazing and native species predation.  In 1992, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food asked farmers to file detailed maps of how they had planted each hectare of arable land.  Any mistake in the extensive forms filled out by farmers is punishable by heavy fines, though the many mistakes made by bureaucrats on the other side, are overlooked.


            Ridley describes how 'Structure Plans' and 'Regional Planning Guidances' created new rafts of planning consultants, some to work out the regulation detail and some to shepherd landowners through the process.  Both, naturally enough, came up with more reasons for further restrictions and regulations.  The only people able to afford the cost of complying with the rafts of regulations were large-scale developers, who then cover the hills with cheap, ghastly subdivisions, so hated that even more regulations are added, in hopes of mitigating the blight. 


            With this agenda firmly in place, the individual has loses all leverage over the process.  His task is to pay.  And pay and pay.  It is testament to the profound love people have for their land, how deeply wedded they become, that many do pay.  Others?  Not so much.  They stop paying.  They sell and move on.  The well-to-do urban refugees who take their place, inspired by the dream of the countryside wake up one morning, look around and realize their presence represents the decline of that very dream.


            In the 1980's, the National Parks were joined by Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).  Ten percent of  Britain is now frozen thereby.  In the later 80's and 90's, those sites were joined by AOHLVs (Areas of High Landscape Value), ESAs (Environmentally Sensitive Areas) and SCA's (Special Conservation Areas).   As is the way of Land Trusts everywhere, desirable properties are first  identified.  Acquiring the land might take a  decade or two.  No matter. If the land is privately held, conservationists begin to work on the land owner to gift, sell or covenant his property.  If the coveted land is public, its government stewards are persuaded to reallocate land to conservation.

Matt Ridley, Controlling the British Countryside, various publication in PERC Reports, A Countryside for All, the Future of Rural Britain, editor Michael Sissons, Vintage 2001 




Addtional Sourcing

Land Trust Alliance, Land Trust Census, 2005 Final Report

Data Tables, Land Trust Alliance, Land Trust Census, 2010 Final Report.


Editorial, “Salazar acting like a commissar” Washington Examiner
February 28, 2010

Michael Coffman, “How Private Property in America is Being Abolished” Range Magazine, Fall 2005

Alston Chase, “National Park Service Entangled in ‘Greengate,’” syndicated column, archived on  March 5, 1990

Alston Chase “A Continuing Cover-Up: National Park Service's Landmark Land-Grab Continues Deceptive Tactics, Syndicated column, March 19, 1990  archived on


Biosphere Location Map.


“EPA Scoping Comments on the proposed Eastern Washington and San Juan RMP/EIS – translation”.  21 June 2010.  This 166 page memo outlines how BLM will take 445,000 acres out of the land base for enhanced preservation.  This acreage forms part of the 213,000,000 taking now being planned by the BLM and the National Landscape Agenda.


Attachments 4, 5 and 6. Prospective Conservation Designation, National Monument Designations under the Antiquities Act, Internal Draft, not for circulation.  Bureau of Land Management, Indiana Office.


Buffer Plot – This graph demonstrates the awesome ability of wetland buffers to take land.  A two acre wetland can take ten times its size in buffer, depending on the size of a buffer.  Typical buffers range from 100 feet to 350 feet.  At 350 feet, a two acre wetland takes 20 acres, effectively eating up much of a typical rural housesite.  Buffers can be a vicious weapon of suppression, as many rural home owners can testify.

Buffer graph courtesy of Ed Kilduff, SNR Company Principal Hydrogeologist/Engineering Geologist.


Cheryle K. Chymley, “Stealing Private Property with Public Dollars”, American Policy Center Newswire. March 17, 2004


Timothy D. Findley, “The Great American Land Grab”, Range Magazine, Special Publication, 2000