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  • The United States of America --

  • you too Hawaii, and Alaska,

  • to scale, for once.

  • Ever since these states united to create America,

  • the federal government of America, …

  • they and she fought mightily over the land --

  • -- which plains or forests or mountains or swamps to end up in each hand.

  • On the map, it looks like states hold all the cards, but they don't.

  • Just under one third of land in the United States is federal.

  • But, that’s an average.

  • Looking at the percent of Federal Land in the states

  • the ?????? we go, the ????????? the land, and the less of the state that’s in each state.

  • There's eastern states with under one percent Federal Land, …

  • and five western states that control less than half of the land 'in their borders.'

  • How? What?

  • First thing first: how did this happen?

  • America wasn't always the mighty united.

  • Like us all, she started small, when states were young,

  • new, and few, giving away but little for her to play.

  • But then America grew:

  • Louisiana purchasing, Mexican cessioning,

  • and manifest destinying her way across the continent.

  • But in this age of empires,

  • it won't do any good to say she owns the land

  • unless she gets her citizens out there to occupy the vast,

  • totally unoccupiedcontinent.

  • So America turns from hoarder to minimalist,

  • disposing of as much of the land to new states

  • and new settlers as she can.

  • Sometimes giving it away in literal races, …

  • where plots of land were drawn,

  • homesteaders waited at a starting line, and BANG!

  • First family to a plot owns that plot.

  • Says who?

  • Says America!

  • She's booting up a private property ladder

  • from virgin lands,

  • using contracts, and guns.

  • 10% of all the land in the US was given away for free

  • just to get people out West.

  • See also: railroad companies,

  • which got the land either side of any track they could build

  • for the length of a continent.

  • If you could live on or improve the land in the 1800s,

  • America would probably give it to you.

  • But by the 1900s,

  • most of the states are mostly in place,

  • and the Age of Empires and Wagons Westward is over.

  • But America still had a ton of land

  • she didn't or couldn't give away.

  • And now that the states are settled, well...

  • What she has is all she will ever have...

  • She turns away from her gifting minimalism,

  • and becomes a curator of her collection of land.

  • This change was rather a shock to states

  • expecting the land in their borders

  • would be land in their borders, …

  • that Federal Land would continue to be turned over

  • as it had for a century.

  • But, no.

  • Thus, this map and a lot of angry western states,

  • now up against a fully operational federal government,

  • altering the deal.

  • Some states, like poor Utah and Nevada,

  • found themselves with hardly any state

  • in their state or...

  • ... Arizona: “Hey, hey! What about the reservations?

  • Are you going to talk about them? ...

  • Are they Federal Land?

  • Some of us have a lot of reservations in our state.”

  • CGP Grey: “Ahhh, the reservations.

  • Yes, what a great story for another time

  • Look, we can't do the reservations right now, we just can't!”

  • Okay, history aside, America has all this land now,

  • but like, what is it for?

  • What is it for? A lot.

  • Almost all of the following will have an

  • 'in general' before it

  • because there are almost 2,000 separate bureaucracies

  • administering land that, …

  • were it a single country,

  • would be in the top ten list of biggest countries.

  • But in general, most of the Federal Land falls under the control of the President, …

  • to whom a dozen secretaries report,

  • of which we care about three, that run five departments.

  • First, the Department of Defense:

  • she runs military bases,

  • and nuclear silos, and all the toys of war.

  • America has to keep them somewhere,

  • and if sororicide taught her anything,

  • it's don't trust the states with weapons.

  • So keep them close on Federal Land she does.

  • While America's military is big,

  • the Department of Defense holds the least land of the top five.

  • Next is: The National Park Service:

  • The Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone,

  • and Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • If there's an epic vista you've visited or heard of in America,

  • it's probably one of hers.

  • The National Parks is the celebrity of the group,

  • and can really stand out.

  • Next biggest is the Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • Much less known, except if you're in Alaska where 85% of her land is.

  • Fish and Wildlife is in the business of animal conservation,

  • keeping land for America's species under her aegis,

  • not to be developed.

  • Then, there's the Forest Service --

  • often confused with National Parks,

  • but not remotely the same.

  • There's many a breathtaking national forest you can hike through,

  • but they're not parks.

  • They're more America's resource tiles,

  • leased for logging.

  • Plus, grassland tiles for grazing.

  • Forest Service's job is to balance extraction with maintenance.

  • How well she does this is an endless source of argument

  • between America and the states

  • and the companies that want to use those resource tiles.

  • It's a job that guarantees

  • someone is always going to be angry.

  • Only you can prevent forest fires?

  • That's the Forest Service, because she deals with these kind of fires,

  • as well as these kind of fires.

  • And it's a job she splits with the last and the biggest:

  • The Bureau of Land Management.

  • She does it all, from resolving cow disputes,

  • to leasing land for mining, to building parks, …

  • to preserving the coastal waters of California

  • (which, surprise California, are Federal Land!).

  • BLM does a lot

  • and is the biggest which can make it very confusing

  • about which agency does what, but think of it this way:

  • There are three goals:

  • Conservation, Recreation, Extraction.

  • BLM does all three.

  • FS does Conservation and Extraction.

  • F&W does Conservation.

  • And NPS does Conservation and Recreation.

  • Again, in general.

  • These four plus War control 97% of Federal Land.

  • The last three percent is miscellaneous:

  • used by departments like the Postal Service,

  • or NASA, or the Department of Energy or others.

  • OK, this is lovely,

  • but like what does it mean to say that land is federal?

  • Is it part of the state or not?

  • Well, this brings up the delicate and sensitive balance

  • of power between the states and America.

  • And there's an enormous amount of words words words

  • around the sovereignty of governments.

  • But, ultimately, Federal Land belongs to America

  • and she can do with it what she wants,

  • and the states have to just suck it.

  • Most starkly in Nevada, where Federal Land was used for nuclear bomb testing.

  • Yeah, that's a pretty big hole you punched in Nevada, America.

  • Oh, not just the once...

  • Oh... Oh... Oh...

  • When push comes to shove,

  • America can shove.

  • That's the most extreme example,

  • but Federal Lands will often have their own separate

  • federal law enforcement officers.

  • Like the Investigative Services Branch:

  • a kind of FBI for National Parks.

  • Though state borders do matter here, for lesser crimes,

  • federal officers will often dump suspects into the state courts to deal with.

  • Private citizens can't buy property on Federal Land.

  • There are Americans who will tell you they live in a National Park.

  • Cape Cod and Fire Island National Parks are examples of this.

  • But if you zoom into official maps,

  • you'll often find hilarious borders that swoop around

  • and in between developed and undeveloped areas.

  • There’s also military bases, which will have soldiers living in them,

  • but they can't own anything.

  • And because it's Federal Land,

  • the Department of Defense that builds the housing can ignore all of a state’s laws