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.
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.
- National Forest Service
- National Park Service
- Bureau of Land Management
- Fish and Wildlife Service
- Other federal entities
- Department of Defense
- Local Government
- County and Municipal Government
- Other local government
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
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.