Let's play 'Guess that State'!

Can you guess which states these are? The images are based off of the private land area in that state.

No? How about the next one?

Here's a hint, the next one isn't Utah.

How many did you guess?

Are you curious about what the rest of the United States looks like?

Huh ... What happened to the western half of the USA?

If you want to look at more detailed maps, check out this page: The National Atlas

The Constitution states in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17:
[The congress shall have power] To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;

In other words, the federal government only has the right to own a ten-mile square piece of land for the above specific purposes. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 declared that new states entering the union would have equal footing with the already existing 13 states - all land would belong to the state, and the federal government would need to buy any tract of land it needed for its purposes (listed above).

Well, as you can see by the map, they did pretty well at first, and most of the eastern states remain intact. When the federal government began buying or conquesting land, and creating territories - a new policy came into place. When Ohio was made a state in 1803, the government kept possession of any land not privately owned, rather than turning it over to the state. They promised to sell the land to private parties as quickly as possible, and they would use the proceeds to pay off the national debt. At first, this worked - the states eventually gained possession of the land, and the federal government got a bit of cash. Most of the Louisiana purchase was dealt with in this way (I wonder how much the US Government got back from it's investment?). When Northern Mexico was conquered, and eventually made into states, this policy was not followed (as you can see from the map).

The federal government owns aproximatly:
  • 90% of Alaska
  • 45% of Arizona
  • 45% of California
  • 36% of Colorado
  • 64% of Idaho
  • 30% of Montana
  • 87% of Nevada
  • 35% of New Mexico
  • 52% of Oregon
  • 66% of Utah
  • 30% of Washington, and
  • 48% of wyoming
Coming to a total average of 52% of each state involved. This is a far cry from the limits stated in the constitution. Maybe we should ask why this is true, what they are gaining from the land (as they could sell most of it for a fair profit if they wished).

There is a lot of talk from Native Americans saying how the white-men stole the land .. etc etc. Well, we don't own it either.

With the presidential elections coming up, I wonder how many of them even know (or care) that half of the land in the western USA isn't under the people's care or control? Would the states make better use of the land? Maybe so, but we'll never know.

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