Why the Government Owns So Much Land in the WestBreaking News
tags: Oregon militia
The United States government owns 47 percent of all land in the West. In some states, including Oregon, Utah and Nevada, the majority of land is owned by the federal government. Of course, it used to own nearly all of it.
And that remaining ownership and management of large tracts of forest and grazing lands is the core of the problem for antigovernment protesters in Oregon. They have taken over a federal building, the latest in a long history of fights between the government and Western settlers about how the lands should be used.
The history of federal land ownership has been largely one of divestiture and public use, not acquisition. As the United States expanded across the continent, it did so by purchasing or taking the land that became new states. (Among the groups it took land from were Native Americans.)