US Government Management of Western Forest Lands

Quote of the Day

Vision is the bottleneck of talent. Most talent is wasted because people do not clearly know what they want. It’s not a lack of effort, but a lack of direction. There are many capable people in the world, but relatively few that focus on what matters.

James Clear. I see this problem EVERY SINGLE DAY.


Figure 1: Percentage of Western State Forest Lands Managed By the US Federal Government.

I am always looking for data analysis exercises for the young folks that I tutor online. While watching the coverage of the massive forest fires on the west coast of the US, I noticed that all the media were reporting that much of the forest land in these states are managed by the US government, which makes them responsible for managing these forests. I thought it would be a good exercise to show the students how to calculate the percentage of forest land that is managed by the US government.

As usual, Power Query is my tool of choice. You can download my workbook from here. I should mention that you will often see different percentages listed for federal government land management percentages. All the differences that I have seen have to do with how you define managed and the type of land. For this exercise, I am focused on forest lands because those are the ones subject to controversy about vegetation management.


What are Federally Managed Lands?

One of the first questions to answer is what are considered federally-managed lands. The task is complicated because there are so many different federal agencies that manage forest land. Also, numerous "local" entities manage forest land. For the purposes of this exercise, I have grouped management into four categories: federal, state, local, and private. The following list shows how I am mapping my four categories to the US Forest Service breakdown, which uses the eleven government categories listed below.

    • Federal
      • National Forest Service
      • National Park Service
      • Bureau of Land Management
      • Fish and Wildlife Service
      • Other federal entities
      • Department of Defense
    • State
    • Local Government
      • County and Municipal Government
      • Other local government
    • Private

Data Source

The US Forest Service maintains a data mart from which you can download Excel workbooks containing all sorts of information on the forests in every state. All of my information comes from this data mart. Simply click on the image of the state you want on the US map and the file will download.

The US Forest Service always prepares a one-page summary for the forests in each state. You can access these summaries here. The summaries are generated using the data from the data mart.


My analysis approach was simple:

  • Download forest data workbooks from the data mart for eleven western states.
  • Select the forest area tabs from each workbook (SR002) and turn the data into an Excel table.
  • Bring all the tables into Power Query.
  • Write a function to convert all the tables to show the percentage of land managed by each entity.
  • Group the data into my four categories.
  • Generate a table of the state data.
  • Plot the table

The plot is shown in Figure 1. My processed, cross-tabulated data table is shown below.

Table 1: Federal Ownership Percentage of Western State Forest Land

Table of Data from US Forest Service Data Mart


I am floored to see that 96% of the forest land in Nevada is managed by the US government. Even California's 57% federal management is pretty high considering the state only manages 2.3% of the forest land.

This entry was posted in Civics Through Spreadsheets, Excel. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to US Government Management of Western Forest Lands

  1. Douglas Ruisaard says:

    While I appreciate the relevance of the PERCENTAGE of land managed (better and more accurate term than "owned") by the Fed's ... another stat may have similar significance. That would be the TOTAL forest *area* divided into the 4 categories you provided. I *do* understand that the data sources you provide do indeed provide area data and I would encourage your readers to access THAT information and assimilate it into the overall picture of forest management and responsibility.

    • mathscinotes says:

      I agree with you. I will change my terminology and title to managed. I will do another post on total area.

      Thanks for the helpful comment.

  2. NotACapitalist says:

    "The truth is, that we brought with us the rights of men, of expatriated men. On our arrival here the question would at once arise, _*by what law will we govern ourselves?*_ The resolution seems to have been, _*by that system, with which we are familiar;*_ to be altered by ourselves occasionally, and adapted to our new situation. 4 Jefferson's Corresp. 178." Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, Book 1, Ch 16.

    "The truth is", the Constitution states quite clearly that each state designates the electors for each state and the electors vote for the president of the US. Nowhere in the Constitution is the right to vote for the President given to the People. Americans act within the illusion of democracy and get what they deserve every time.

    "The truth is", the Western Hemisphere and colonies were stolen from the indigenous peoples under the Laws of Feudal Europe, specifically the Royal Corporate Charter.

    "The truth is", the US Constitution established [that with which we are familiar] a divisive feudal society; a Mercantile Corporate Plutocracy run as a slave owning Republic.

    American voters, living their delusion of democracy, always get what they deserve in their governments, and then they blame each other for their divisive society through their representatives, who are well-paid apologists for the socially created Corporate Persons.

    "War is just a racket … It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses … The flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag." — General Smedley Butler, 1935

    "Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: *The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate." — Bertrand Russell.

    The Psychology of Democracy as a Social Altruism: "… there it is, it’s Death; it’s utterly democratic.” The late Rick Roderick from YT, "The Masters of Suspicion [full length]"

    Consume, Obey, Procreate
    Authority, irrespective of claimant, is self-serving, biased and socially divisive.

    Divide and conquer.

    You have the right to remain civilly and politically ignorant!


Comments are closed.