Land Topic Article : Land Use in the US

Land Use in the US

It was presumed that one of the ultimate causes for species extinction and wildlife habitat distraction is the use of land for urbanization.  Unfortunately, this is one misunderstanding fact about the land use in the United States.  Farming and ranching are the culprits of the 68% endangerment of all species in the United States based on the Department of Agriculture.  Agriculture had the greatest impact on the American landscape, not urbanization.  It is the largest consumer of water resulting to most water developments, most especially in the West side of the US.  Unfortunately, less attention is paid by environmentalists, academicians, recreationists and even the general public to the role of agriculture in habitat fragmentation, species endangerment and declining water quality.

Ironically, most of agriculture is totally not needed to supply the needs of the nation.  Majority of its production is headed for forage production used principally by livestock. 
The US has 2.3 billion acres of land.  Of which, 375 million acres are located at Alaska and are not appropriate for agricultural ventures. 

Even with the significant growth of urbanization, only 68 million acres are considered developed lands.  This is only 3% of the land area in the US, but, it already accommodates approximately 75% of the population.  Once the land is already urbanized, it can no longer be shifted to another use such as biodiversity preservation.

Rural residential land has a total acreage of about 73 million acres.  Of this acreage, 44 million acres are lots of 10 or more acres that is composed of subdivisions and farmhouses that are all over the country.
About 139 million acres or a total of 6.1% of the total land area of the US are used for developed and rural residential land.  This land area is not that significant if you compared it with more than 80 million acres of feeder corn and 75 million acres of soybeans were planted last year alone.  95% of these feeder corn and soybeans are not for consumption of the population but for the livestock.  These two plantations have affected more of the land areas of the US as compared to combining all the urbanization, rural residential, highways and railroads, commercial centers, mall industrial parks and golf course.

349 million acres of land in the US are used for planting crops.  80% of the cropland acreage composed of 80 million acres of feeder corn plantation, 75 million acres of soybean plantation, 61 million acres of alfalfa hay plantation and 62 million acres of wheat plantation.  With the exception of wheat, these crops are used primarily for livestock consumption.  Less than 3 million acres of the amount of land is used for the production of all vegetables.

41.4% of the US land area without considering the region of Alaska are grazed by livestock.  This is about 788 million acres.  Rangeland, pasture and cropland pasture are part of the grazed lands.  Domestic livestock are grazed in more than 309 million acres of federal, state and other public lands.  Also, livestock are being grazed of another 140 million acres of forested lands.

Forest land, on the other hand, occupies 747 million acres. 501 million acres of which are principally forest.  The remainder of which are used for grazed forest and other different classes.

US cropland baseThe above information is made available from USDA Economic Research Service publication “Major Uses of Land in the United States 1997.”  The conclusion of the report made by USDA is that urbanization and rural residences do not pose a threat to the US cropland base or the level of agricultural production.  Thus, the urbanization and rural residences is not the greatest threat to biodiversity.

If efforts are made directly towards the reduction of unnecessary agricultural production, there will be a greater protection and restoration of the declining numbers of species and wildlife habitat, endangered ecosystems and ecological processes.  This is much more effective than containing the growth of population, restoring the wildlands and the bringing back of endangered species

For more information visit