Skip to comments.Question; Whats the approximate value of land owned by US government
Posted on 08/25/2010 8:53:14 AM PDT by big bad easter bunny
If the US government owns most of the land in the US and the average citizens liability for the national debt is around 45k, maybe the government should transfer ownership to citizens and sell a bunch to balance their books.
What do you think the book value of all the land owned by the government is?
The Federal Government owns nearly 650 million acres of land - almost 30 percent of the land area of the United States. Federally-owned and managed public lands include National Parks, National Forests, and National Wildlife Refuges.
Figure about $500 to $4000 per acre depending on location.
Less for the deep woods in Alaska.
This is a question I’ve always wondered about, because a lot of it is not used at all, but you cannot trespass on it either, so what’s it worth?.
I have to imagine it in the trillions, but it depends on what’s on it - buildings, lakes, rivers, coast, etc. and what reources there may be - water, minerals, lumber, etc.
Here is a 1986 paper on just the Fed owned mineral and resource rights: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=328688
IOW, not even close to the $45K of debt, as most of the land is in the lower range per acre. The Census reports US population at 307 million as of July 2009.
That’s about 2.3 acres per cap. Net per cap US land value ballpark $1K to $10K.
it is actually worse than that. The government has partnered with corporations and private land owners to purchase different rights from the bundle of rights you get from fee ownership. Rights like access rights, building rights etc. These are called conservation easements. Half of the U.P. in Michigan is under one.
I'd be more open to the government selling land that doesn't have a lot of plant life. However, I'm sure environmentalists will come up with a reason why that is a bad idea as well. Some of them may even have valid points.
I think the government abuses their authority over these lands, but I'm not sure selling them to private individuals is a better solution.
It you transfer the lands to private individuals then the public looses the ability to effect how that land is managed. Government is a bad solution to most problems, but sometimes the alternatives are worse.
I’d say it depends. If the government sells off an individual acre, it could be worth a whole lot. Selling it off all at once in a fire sale would swamp any real estate market and make each acre worth next to nothing... and make comparable acres of real estate, already on the market and financed, worth next to nothing.
I have a question: What land in the U.S. in NOT owned by the govt? You don’t own the land if you have to pay rent (property tax) every year.
It’s already pledged to China.
Based on the paper which says $175 billion, inflation calculation says it’s worth approx $344 billion.
The reason it isn't happening now is political-- there is a fairly strong coalition of very diverse groups which likes the government being a large landowner.
Not all of these groups are green libtards. Even some very conservative groups like the cattleman's association love the idea of public grazing land and fisherman's groups love the idea of having fedgov stock mountain streams with fish hatchlings.
Both functions could be easily privatized with the fees earned from grazing fees and fishing licenses. Or, if the groups can't trust privatization, allowing fedgov to continue to do them on private land.
I think you could pay off the national debt. just by selling off the Presidio in downtown San Francisco right under the Golden Gate bridge.
I would wager that Fed owned mineral and resource rights range over a trillion ++.
His 1996 campaign book "Why Government Doesn't Work" was a blueprint for reducing the federal gov't back down to constitutional levels while protecting those in the system who were too old to build a private retirement fund.
A brilliant book that gives lie to the common but erroneous belief that the fedgov beast can't be reduced back down to a sane, sustainable level.
I’d prefer unrestricted private ownership, but if that isn’t possible, couldn’t lands be sold with some degree of restriction?
I’d rather a landowner go into a transaction knowing up front what can and can’t be done with the property.
In contrast, what we have now is you can buy property thinking you have control, and the government comes along and restricts your rights after you own it.
This moves in the direction I have been postulating for some time. GEOs - Gold Equivilant Ounces(s)
In short, during the census, establish the average land price in each congressional district. This average should include all land sales from acreage to downtown. Then mulitiply the number of acres owned inside of that district by the average price. This creates a virtual dollar value for the land and buildings. Convert this to gold ounces based upon the average spot price of gold during the prior year.
Do this for all congressional districts, add in the actual number of UNENCOMBERED (no loans, etc) of gold ounces, add in the converted precious metal holdings (again unencombered). This will create a final number of GEOs. Congress then is required to vote (can not delegate) the total currency, currency, financial instraments, and other monetary instraments that may be in circulation against that number of GEOs. The Treasury is required to 1) report the number of total currency, currency, financial instraments, and other monetary instraments in current production and adopt either money tightening or printing in such a manner as to bring the money supply into accordance with the GEO to currency ratio.
This valueation remains in effect till next census and the Treasury reports every year on their efforts and progress on implementing the will of Congress. Congress shall have the power to remove and replace the head of the Treasury by majority of both houses if the Treasury is not able to keep the monetary balance within +/- 5% of the GEO target
Wait a minute... there might be legal precedent. Of course! Land-snatching! [grabs a law book]
Hedley Lamarr: Land, land... "Land: see Snatch." [flips back several pages]
Hedley Lamarr: Ah, Haley vs. United States. Haley: 7, United States: nothing. You see, it can be done!
You should start with the Green River Formation and its 800,000,000 and 1,000,000,000 barrels of recoverable oil! Yes, 1 TRILLION BARRELS!
“...More than 70% of the total oil shale acreage in the Green River Formation, including the richest and thickest oil shale deposits, is under federally owned and managed lands...”
I agree with you.
The quintessential American icon is our wilderness areas, and open landscape, including parts of the national parks. People come from all over the world to see these wonders.
Granted, not everything probably should have been declared a national monument by past presidents, or national park units by Congress. Especially here in drug smuggling country where only the illegal aliens get to use our public lands.
I like TED’s land management
But the GSA awarded a $435 million contract to design the new consolidated headquarters... and that is just for the design of the first phase.
And the GSA is a piker compared to unused buildings of the Post Office, Defense Department and other agencies.
Now consider the impact if the DHS had built its new consolidated headquarters in El Paso, TX or Niagara, NY rather than in the beltway.
The cost of government owned real estate location impacts government policy decisions related to their mission.
I don’t know the actual value, although I’m sure it’s a huge sum. I still think that some variation on the old Homestead act, open only to private citizens, would be a great way to relieve some of the government debt, as well as putting some of the country on a better-than-current footing. I know that my wife and I would drop everything for something like that, properly done. However, if I had to guess, given current events, I’d say that my fellow FReeper was more likely to have been right when he called it reserved for China. Bummer.
I gave him an honest answer about the value of the land. I didn’t speculate into mineral rights.
Only the ignorant think that the government doesn’t own all land. Rent has to be paid for it (taxes) and they can confiscate it as they please (eminent domain).
Forest Service cutting practices were also problematic. At the time of the 1952 Newsweek story, most national forest timber was managed using selection cutting: individual trees were cut when they were mature, leaving behind beautiful stands of younger trees. When done right, a selection cut forest is hard to distinguish from wilderness.
Clearcutting, in which all trees on 20 to 100 acres or more are cut regardless of maturity, imposes higher reforestation and rehabilitation costs. But since agency managers got to keep those costs out of timber receipts, they had an incentive to clearcut even when other cutting techniques were more compatible with recreation and other uses. From a timber industry point of view, clearcutting sometimes makes sense. But when considering recreation, wildlife, and watershed, it was often devastating. The cash profits of the 1950s also vanished, and by the 1980s the Forest Service was losing billions of dollars a year on the timber program and other activities.
By 1970, the Forest Service was cutting almost four times as much timber as it did in 1952, almost all of it clearcut. The resulting controversies over both clearcutting and the large amount of timber being cut rocked the agency and led to lawsuits, congressional hearings, and tree-sitting protests. Ironically, agency leaders responded to the controversies by becoming more centralized in their management, which only made the Forest Service more vulnerable to criticism.
In 1976, Congress tried to resolve Forest Service problems by instituting a comprehensive forest planning process. But the resulting plans proved to be a costly mistake: the agency spent more than a billion dollars planning the national forests, but the plans were often based on fabricated data, and they did not resolve any debates.
The Forest Services legacy of poor management continues today. A 2003 report by the Government Accountability Office concluded: Historically, the Forest Service has not been able to provide Congress or the public with a clear understanding of what the Forest Services 30,000 employees accomplish with the approximately $5 billion the agency receives each year. Since 1990, the GAO has reported seven times on performance accountability weaknesses at the Forest Service.7 The agencys financial operations were on the GAOs high-risk list for waste between 1999 and 2005.8
The timber program continues to be subject to inefficiency and scandal. The Washington Post reported in 2004 that a large area of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska was clearcut and the trees left to rot because of inept planning by the Forest Service.9 U.S. taxpayers lost millions of dollars in Tongass. The agencys costs of selling timber from Tongass have substantially exceeded fees collected from timber companies. In 1992, a quirk in timber sale contracts even caused the Forest Service to pay timber companies $14 million to cut Tongass timber, which was a cost to taxpayers on top of the $40 million that the agency spent to manage the timber.10
Nonetheless, big changes have come to the agency despite its poor planning and management. Starting in 1990, a new generation of national forest managers began to wind down the agency's timber program. Within six years, timber sales had fallen by 85 percent, and they remain at fairly low levels today. This relieved the controversies about overcutting, but it led many to wonder where the agency would shift its focus after timber: Recreation? Wildlife management?
(Fires Are the New Cash Cow) The answer came in 2000, when a fire burned more than a billion dollars worth of homes in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Congress responded by giving the Forest Service a whopping 38 percent increase in its 2001 budget, mostly for fire activities. Total national forest fire expenditures have more than quadrupled in the last 15 years.11 Fire expenditures have grown from about 10 percent of the Forest Service budget in the early 1990s to more than 40 percent today.
Much of this money is being spent reducing hazardous fuels within the forests. Far more is spent preparing for and suppressing fires. Yet much of the spending on fire activities is as questionable as the Forest Service's earlier timber programs. National forest fire problems are not as bad as the Forest Service claims; hazardous fuels are only a major issue on about 15 percent of federal lands in the West.
Forest managers have known for decades that some fires should be allowed to burn for the good of forest ecosystems. But from the beginning, Congress has given a virtual blank check to the Forest Service for fire suppression activities, and much of the spending has been of dubious value. The agency has made poor management decisions regarding prescribed burnings over many decades.12
Agency leaders are taking advantage of Congress's willingness to throw money at the fire issue. With an increasingly large share of the Forest Service bureaucracy dependent on the extra funding that comes around each fire season, the agency blindly puts out almost all fires. Even people within the Forest Service fear that the agency's traditional commitment to conservation is being lost in an orgy of spending on fire-related activities.13
Reform Options: Today, the Forest Service controls 193 million acres of land, has a budget of $5 billion, and employs more than 30,000 workers.14 The Forest Service is in need of serious reforms. The services provided by the agency should be restructured to reduce taxpayer costs and to improve forest management practices. One option is for Congress to allow the agency to charge fair market value for recreation and other uses of Forest Service land. That would probably raise enough revenue to cover all of the agencys costs. Taxpayers would save about $5 billion annually if the Forest Service was shifted to a self-funding structure. If Forest Service activities were self-funded, it would force the agency to be more efficient in its operations and more responsive to forest land users. Self-funding would create incentives for the agency to decentralize its operations, allowing managers to respond to local conditions instead of being controlled by top-down plans from Washington.
Another reform step would be to revive federalism by eliminating federal forest subsidies to the states and turning portions of the national forests over to the states. Other activities could be privatized. It might be possible, for example, for some national forests to buy private insurance, as Oregon did until recently. Some experts have proposed full privatization of the national forests.15 Alternately, the national forests could be structured as independent trusts that would be owned by the federal government, but managed by a board of directors and funded out of forest-related receipts. The trusts would have special obligations to promote conservation, while still producing many valuable resources. For decades, the Forest Service has been plagued by mismanagement and subject to perverse and damaging incentives. In the coming years, policymakers should focus on the goal of reforming the Forest Service to reduce taxpayer costs, while improving the sound and ecological management of forest lands.
A Federal Privatization Agenda
IMHO, more and bigger government is NOT the right option.
That is probably something that could work.
There are very serious issues with the pay for play initiatives I've read about in management plans.
What's the fair market value of hiking in undeveloped wilderness. How much overhead is their going to be in a permit system and enforcing it in land that is basically not patrolled and in which there are no offices close by to go and get the permit.
What liability does the forest service accept when it accepts a fee for a particular form of recreation.
Where it really gets ugly is when they try and manage things they know little to nothing about such as caving.
Pay to play schemes gets the government more involved with managing recreational use of the land. Why would anyone expect them to manage those activities any better than the other things they manage?
They might bring in some revenue, but the overhead will also increase dramatically. Convenience will go way down.
I don't want to even think what would happen if the Americans with Disabilities Act gets applied to providing recreation for any form of activity for which the forest service decided to charge a fee.
Ask the government to do as little as possible. Trying to solve a fiscal problem by having the government increase the scope of management is counter productive in the extreme.
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