Federal Land

To anyone who grew up on the east coast, the scale of federal land ownership in the west is shocking. Alex Tabarrok posts a map and a proposal:

Does a sale of western lands mean reducing national parkland? No, first much of the land isn’t parkland. Second, I propose a deal. The government should sell some of its most valuable land in the west and use some of the proceeds to buy low-price land in the Great Plains.

The western Great Plains are emptying of people. Some 322 of the 443 Plains counties have lost population since 1930 and a majority have lost population since 1990.

Now is the time for the Federal government to sell high-priced land in the West, use some of the proceeds to deal with current problems and use some of the proceeds to buy low-priced land in the Plains creating the world’s largest nature park, The Buffalo Commons.


Granting that much of that western land isn’t parkland, and that some of it is valuable, it’s not clear to me how much of it is both valuable and not a natural park. Outside of Clark and Washoe counties, Nevada is basically worthless desert and at the moment Clark County is badly overbuilt and full of foreclosed properties, vacants, and half-built projects. Still, it’d be worth looking at something like this in greater detail and seeing if there are any plausible options in this regard. Population is growing in many of these heavily federal states and population is shrinking in the plains and it does make a lot more sense for the federal government to concentrate its land holdings in places where people don’t want to live.