Land Ownership:

Information on the Acreage, Management, and Use of Federal and Other Lands

RCED-96-40: Published: Mar 13, 1996. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the federal government's ownership, management, use, and regulation of lands in the United States, focusing on: (1) changes in the ownership of lands managed by the four major land management agencies from June 1964 through September 1994; (2) changes in the number of acres managed for conservation; (3) nonfederal acreage that is subject to federal rights of use such as easements and leases; (4) acreage held in trust for Native Americans; (5) acreage owned by 13 selected western states; and (6) acreage transferred by three nonprofit organizations.

GAO found that: (1) between June 1964 and September 1994, the acreage managed by the four major land management agencies decreased from 700.8 million acres to about 622.8 million acres; (2) the Bureau of Land Management transferred significant acreage to the other agencies, Alaska, and Native Alaskans; (3) the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the Forest Service increased the total acres that they manage; (4) about 43.7 percent of the acreage these agencies manage are for conservation purposes; (5) as of September 1994, the federal government had rights-of-use through leases, agreements, permits, and easements to over 3 million acres of nonfederal land, usually to support the management of adjacent federal lands; (6) in 1995, the federal government held about 52.3 million acres in 33 states in trust for Native Americans; (7) as of September 1994, the 13 western states owned about 141.9 million acres; and (8) between 1964 and September 1994, three nonprofit organizations transferred about 3.2 million acres to other public and private entities through sales, donations, and exchanges.

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