What Are Federal Lands?

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  • Written By: Misty Amber Brighton
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  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2019
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In the United States, many parcels of land are owned and maintained by the federal government. Known as federal lands, these may include national parks, military bases, national forests, and wildlife refuges. These lands could also include Indian reservations, which are designated for various tribal governments. A number of agencies are involved with managing federal property, and some of these include the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), United States Forest Service (USFS), and the Department of Defense (DOD). These lands are found in every state along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Government lands are managed by the BLM, but other agencies may be involved depending on the purpose of the land. For example, the National Park Serve (NPS) is responsible for overseeing national parks, while the DOD manages military installations. Whenever roads or bridges need to be built on any of these lands, the office of Federal Lands Highway (FLH) is responsible for overseeing this work. This agency will work in conjunction with any other agencies that are responsible for managing these lands in order to complete these projects.


Some federal lands are available for all members of the public to enjoy, while others are intended for special groups to use. National forests, wildlife refuges, and parks are designed to be enjoyed by all citizens of the United States and are open for them to visit. Military installations are intended for service members and their families to use, although portions of a particular base may be open to the public. Still others have completely restricted access, such as is the case of federal prisons.

Federal lands could also include places of historic interest. Some examples could be famous battle sites or historic homes. The nation's capitol, which is located in the city of Washington, D.C., also contains some of these sites. A few of these include the White House, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial. Many historic places that are located on government lands are available for the public to view, but this must be done by making an appointment or signing up for a guided tour.

The United States government also owns most Indian reservations in that country. These are mostly located in the western part of the country and may be designated for a single tribe or multiple ones to use. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is responsible for maintaining relations with tribal leaders and facilitating their use of the land in these designated areas.


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Post 3

@Mykol - I am familiar with some of the national parks, but didn't realize there were so many wildlife refuges across the country.

I had never given much thought to how much land the federal government owned until my family took a trip to Washington, D.C.

We toured all of the usual sites such as the White House, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

Even as a kid, I remember being interested in the history and significance of these buildings. What I remember most about the tour of the White House was all the secret service men I saw walking around.

When we climbed to the top of the Washington Monument, my cousin and I decided to count all the steps on the way down.

I would love to return to these places now as an adult, and think they would hold even more meaning for me now.

Post 2

When my aunt and uncle retired, they sold their home, bought an RV and traveled the country. Their goal was to visit every national park in every state.

They are still working on this goal, but I know they are really enjoying seeing so much of the country and learning a lot about the land along the way.

I am more familiar with some of the federal wildlife refuge areas. Most states have several of these located throughout their state, but many people are not even aware of them.

They are a great way to learn about the land, natural climate and habitat of each area. Even from state to state, these wildlife refuges can be very


In one area of my state there is a wildlife refuge that is mostly prairie grass. As you drive through this area you see hundreds of acres of native grasses. There is also one part of this refuge that has some buffalo.

You travel across the state and there is another wildlife refuge that is for migratory waterfowl. Late in the fall it is not uncommon to see amazing flights of many different kinds of ducks and geese.

These federal wildlife refuges are very different, but both are quite interesting. I think these are a great way to become familiar with what your area of the country has to offer and what some of the native habitat was like.

Post 1

The parcel of federal land that I am most familiar with is Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado.

I have been here many times, and never get tired of camping and hiking in this awesome, picturesque area.

Sometimes people complain about the entrance fees they have to pay to visit this park, but these fees are used to maintain and improve the park.

Many national parks also offer free days throughout the year. I know this park has a free weekend over Martin Luther King day and over Veterans Day weekend in November.

You can also camp free here during National Park week which is in April. I don't mind paying to visit this federal park because I feel it is a small price to pay for all that is made available for you to explore and discover.

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