Federal Land Use

RCED-96-139R: Published: May 7, 1996. Publicly Released: May 7, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the quantities of coal, oil, natural gas, timber, and grazing acreage on federal lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, focusing on the extent to which those resources and hardrock minerals were made available or used between fiscal year (FY) 1990 and FY 1995. GAO found that: (1) federal lands contain an estimated 160 billion tons of potentially minable coal, 1.79 billion barrels of economically recoverable oil, and 14.83 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas; (2) the quantities of hardrock minerals contained within subsurface federal lands have not been estimated; (3) federal lands contain 104 million acres of timber suitable for harvesting, of which 49 million acres are approved for harvesting; (4) federal lands contain 268 million grazing acres; (5) between FY 1990 and FY 1995, exploitation of subsurface resources produced 274 million tons of coal, 130 million barrels of oil, and 1.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas; (6) between 1990 and 1995, timber production on Bureau and Service lands declined to about 4 billion board feet on about 500,000 acres; (7) the acreage used for grazing on these lands averaged 263 million acres annually; and (8) the number of mineral claims declined to 291,600 on about 8.3 million acres.

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