U.S. forest land, crop land declining, urban land up

A recent study noted a continuing decline in the amount of forested land in the United States.

 

Conversely, urban land continues a dramatic increase, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In a trend that goes back decades, urban land has been increasing at nearly five times the rate of population growth and now accounts for 70 million acres as of 2012. That’s an increase of 10 million acres in just 10 years, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

Roughly every five years since 1945, the Economic Research Service compiles its “Major Land Uses” report, delineating how the nearly 2.3 billion acres in the United States is used. There’s a lag of about five years in the data because of the massive amount of information the agency analyzes for the reports.

The national census trends mirror trends in Georgia, where urban land doubled in 30 years, according to a related report released this year by the National Resources Conservation Service’s National Resources Inventory.

Forest-use land in the United States steadily declined from 1949 to about 1997, when the country lost about 16 percent of its forested land.

However, the reported noted that the U.S. added forest in the decade between 1997 and 2007. But the acres of forested land started to decline again in 2007.

U.S. forest use land stood at 632 million acres in 2012, the lowest figure since at least 1949.

Land for crops also is showing a long-term decline.

The United States had 392 million acres of crop land in 2012, down from 442 million acres 10 years earlier. Georgia’s farmland decreased by about a third in the same 30 years, according to the National Resources Inventory

In other data from the report:

Urban land in the United States increased from 50 million acres in 1982 to 70 million acres in 2012. About 3 percent of the land in the United States is in that urban category as of 2012, according to the report. In the same 30 years in Georgia, urban land more than doubled, from 1.7 million acres to more than 4 million acres in 2012.

The amount of in state and national parks, wildlife areas and the like reached an all-time high of 253.6 million acres in 2012, up from about 211 million acres in 1982.

Overall, United States forest-use land was 632 million acres, or 28 percent, while cropland, at 392 acres, was 17 percent of the overall U.S. land total. “Special uses,” a category that is mainly parks and wildlife areas, had about 655 million acres of pasture and range land in 2012 and was 29 percent of the U.S. total.

About 60 percent of U.S. land is privately owned. The federal government owns about 28 percent, and a third of that federally-owned land is in Alaska.

Follow Lee Shearer at www.facebook.com/LeeShearerABH or https://twitter.com/LeeShearer.

 

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