Published On: Sat, Mar 20th, 2010

My thoughts on how to reduce the $12 Trillion Federal Debt: sell some federal land

The federal and state governments own more than 30 percent of all the land in the United States. The total land managed by several different branches of the Federal government is 635,000,000 acres, according to a 2002 USDA study. The USDA study also credits the state governments with another 196 million acres of land. The total acerage of the United States is about 2.3 billion. Adding up Federal and state lands actually gives us more than 30 percent of the United States. So why does the government need so much land?

photo/ mohamed Hassan

One of the reasons, is preservation of forest and wildlife habitats. Federal and State parks, wildlife refuges, and related acres occupied 242 million acres, which is almost 11 percent of the total land base of the U.S. Additionally,defense and other public installations and facilities totaled another 17 million acres.

The DOI released the Economic Impacts Report in December,and a portion from page 12 presents data for the Bureau of Land Management, “BLM’s public lands make up about 13 percent of the total land surface of the United States and more than 40 percent of all land managed by the Federal government, making BLM the Nation’s largest land manager.”

The DOI report also claims that they are responsible for over 1.4 million jobs in the United States and $370 billion in economic activity. Lets compare these numbers to a private company.

Walt Disney World sits on roughly 25,000 acres of property in Osceola County Florida, of which one-quarter of it is set aside as forest preserves. Walt Disney World Resort is also the largest single-site employer in the United States with approximately 66,000 employees. The efforts of Disney Corporation brought in an estimated $37 billion in revenues in 2008. Quite impressive considering how little property they own in comparison to the Federal governments.

According to a report by Forbes in 2009 ownership of timberland forest is as follows: The government 27%; wood and paper companies, 17%; institutional investors like college endowments, 4%; individuals, 54%. This means that more than half of the Department of Agriculture’s 500 million acre estimates are owned by individuals, not greedy corporations like Michael Moore would like you to believe. The individuals can choose to use the forests for timber or just sit on the property as an investment, the “American Dream” proclamation.

Furthermore, estimates from the 1990’s show that Alaska is more than 89% owned by the State and Federal governments. The same table has Nevada 81 percent owned by the State and Federal governments. Utah is third at 70 percent, followed by Idaho at 66 percent and Wyoming at 54 percent. And in Wyoming 17,000 jobs can be attributed to the parks and forests which is about 7 percent of the states workforce.

By now you are probably screaming, “GET TO THE POINT ALREADY.” I will very shortly.

The Federal government also has control of tribal lands as well, which is a whole separate set of data. The ownership of Tribal lands is very complex and it appears that most of (and maybe all of) the 310 Indian reservations in the country are owned by the Federal government. The total Tribal lands owned are estimated at about 45 million acres. As a side note, there are over 500 recognized Native American tribes, many of which that don’t have a reservation.

Lets not forget military bases, some are closed or closing and have property available. Federal and state offices are also a big part of the land owned. Many of which are prime property, for example MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida. The base is over 5,000 acres of prime beach property on Tampa Bay. While it is not closing any time soon, it is a great example of the property rights the U.S. government has afforded its citizens.

So here is my proposal,

Start selling off government property

The reason is clear,

The Outstanding Public Debt as of 21 Mar 2010 at 07:56:21 PM GMT is:
$ 1 2 , 6 7 3 , 1 0 0 , 0 4 3 , 9 5 5 . 9 9
(from the National Debt Clock)

Start getting rid of old government buildings by selling them off to  private investors. At a meager $5,000 per acre if the United States sold 1 million acres of land, we could get a return of about $5 billion. A minuscule number when compared to the National debt, but it would serve a three-fold purpose:

  1. Eliminate the obligation for management,maintenance and upkeep of properties.
  2. Provide land for development by individuals and corporations.
  3. Pay off additional debts and reduce the liabilities of the United States government.

Here is an excerpt from the President’s Council of Economic Advisors study:

CEA’s multipliers utilize the estimates of a broad range of economists and professional forecasters and were similar to the Federal Reserve’s macro model. CEA further assumed that a one‐percent increase in GDP corresponds to a three‐quarter percent increase in employment (about one million jobs). Using these multipliers, CEA estimated that $1 million in government spending creates 10.9 jobs; equivalently, creating one job requires $92,136 of government spending. In contrast, $1 million provided to states for fiscal relief is estimated to create 8.6 jobs, or $116,603 per job.

The selling of lands should be a selective process. By no means should land be sold off to strip the nation of its natural forestry and animal habitats. However, the government should not be in the business of generating revenues from timber production, mining and energy production. Those business deals should be left to the experts within those fields and should not be managed as part of the government machine. Sell off the exclusive lands to those whom will treat the land accordingly.

If we simply eliminate some of the burden of the governments land ownership we can reduce the need for so many government jobs and the private businesses may actually create more jobs as a result of it. While it is not my intention to get rid of the government jobs, I think we can reduce the excess of jobs generated by the government for things that should be left to businesses.

Look at Walt Disney World, and how successful a company can be while still maintaining the integrity of our environment.

Who will be the next Walt Disney.


Department of Interior’s Economic Impact Report

USDA Major Uses of Land Study

Public Land Ownership by State

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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