Enjoy Your Public Lands

What are public lands?

In the United States, public lands are those owned by central or local governments. Federal public lands are owned equally by all Americans – meaning you, your mailman, and your cousin Bob all have a say in how these lands are managed, and the right to enjoy the lands.

According to the USGS, there are nearly 650 million acres of public land in the United States. These lands include national parks, wildlife refuges, battlefields, national monuments, national forests, recreation areas, wild and scenic rivers, trails, seashores, lakeshores, national memorials, historic sites, and conservation areas.

There are four public land systems:

  • National Forest System (managed by the United States Forest Service)
  • National System of Public Lands (managed by the Bureau of Land Management)
  • National Park System (managed by the National Park Service)
  • National Wildlife Refuge System (managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Why are public lands important?

  • They help preserve our natural heritage for future generations. From natural wonders like Old Faithful to iconic mountain ranges like the Rockies, America’s natural beauty contributes a great deal to America’s identity.
  • Public lands help protect forests, rivers, lakes, plants and wildlife. Many unique flora and fauna species may only exist today because of public lands.
  • Protected areas of public lands allow plant and animal life to adjust to changing climate conditions.
  • More than 66 million Americans rely on National Forest lands for drinking water.
  • They gives Americans the opportunity to enjoy and experience nature.
  • Forests store large amounts of carbon while producing large amounts of oxygen.
  • Outdoor recreation generates $646 billion in spending annually. Public lands give Americans the opportunity to get outdoors.
  • Public lands also help generate revenue and energy through the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act.

Multiple use means that lands must be manage for conservation, recreation, and also resource extraction. Resources such as oil, gas, and timber are often gathered from public lands. Public lands may also be leased out for grazing and ranching, and also provide a space to develop renewable energy.

National Public Lands Day

National public Lands Day is usually the fourth Saturday in September. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the land that all Americans are equally entitled to. There are several ways to take part in National Public Lands Day.

National Public Lands Day is usually a free entry day to national parks and national monuments. This means that the National Park Service waives entry fees, so you can enjoy these areas free of charge.

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