Idaho’s Largest Landowner Controls a Ridiculous 32 Million Acres

Written by Jennifer Geer
Published: February 25, 2024
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With its 53 million acres, Idaho is the 14th largest state by land area. The largest landowner in Idaho owns a whopping 62% of land in the state. This large amount of land, 32,621,631 acres, isn’t owned by a private entity. Instead, the federal government is the largest landowner in Idaho. The Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service oversee much of this land.

How Much Land Does the Federal Government Own in America?

Sunrise at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

The federal government owns nearly 85% of all land in Nevada.

©William Ducklow/

With its 2.4 billion acres of land, including bodies of water, the U.S. is the third largest country by land area. And the federal government owns nearly one-third of that land. How much the government owns varies by state. For example, in Connecticut, the government only owns 0.28% of the land. 

Here are the top five states where the federal government holds the highest percentage of federal land.

  1. Nevada — 84.94%
  2. Utah — 64.9%
  3. Idaho — 61.63%
  4. Alaska — 61.24%
  5. Oregon — 52.95%

Why Does the Government Own Land in America?

Lands owned by the government provide recreation for the public, preserve natural lands, and contain natural resources. When the nation was young, the government purchased or acquired land and transferred it to state governments. Land not transferred to states was given to settlers through land grants or homesteading acts.

Once the U.S. settled, the government switched priorities to keeping its land and began holding onto the land it acquired. Today, the government owns a large portion of territory in the western U.S. Much of it wasn’t suitable for farming and wasn’t snatched up by homesteaders when people began settling in the West. In contrast, the government owns the least land in Connecticut, Iowa, and Kansas.

What is the Wilderness Designation?

Black Bear Population by State

The government protects lands with the wilderness designation.


Acts of Congress have protected 4.8 million acres of public lands in Idaho (14% of all public lands) with the wilderness designation based on the Wilderness Act of 1964. These important natural areas in the U.S. are open to the public for recreation, such as hiking, horseback riding, camping, hunting, fishing, berry picking, and paddling. However, they are closed to timber harvesting, mining, and all motorized vehicles.

Did You Know? There Are No National Parks in Idaho

Craters of the Moon National Monument is located in Idaho.

©Rui Serra Maia/

It may seem hard to believe that in a state full of natural wilderness, much of it owned by the federal government, there are no national parks within the state except for a small section of Yellowstone National Park. However, Idaho does remain one of the states in America without a national park.

Although they aren’t designated as national parks, there are several national monuments and reserves in Idaho. Some of these include the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, the City of Rocks National Reserve, and the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sundry Photography/iStock via Getty Images

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About the Author

Jennifer Geer is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on animals, news topics, travel, and weather. Jennifer holds a Master's Degree from the University of Tulsa, and she has been researching and writing about news topics and animals for over four years. A resident of Illinois, Jennifer enjoys hiking, gardening, and caring for her three pugs.

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