The US Government Owns Almost Half of the Land in the American West; Supporting Through Revenue-Sharing Programs
Photograph: Wikipedia, by Rennett Stowe, The American West
A team at Stanford created an interactive website to shed light on the money the federal government has paid to counties and states in the American West over time in turn for controlling parts of their lands. See website here.
By Alex Shashkevich
To this day the US government owns almost half of the land in the American West.
That level of control has been debated ever since the government began acquiring the areas in the 19th century, with some Westerners resenting the vastness of the federal authority, which amounts to 47 percent of land in 11 states. Some states, like Nevada, where the government owns 84.5 percent of the land, see more control than others.
But few know about the existence and history of revenue-sharing programs, with some dating to 1906, through which the federal government has been compensating states and counties for lost tax revenue on the lands it controls.
Now, thanks to historian Joseph 'Jay' Taylor's research and a team at Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), the history and geography of those programs are presented in Follow the Money: A Spatial History of In-Lieu Programs for Western Federal Lands, an interactive website that maps federal payments made to counties and states in the American West over the past 100 years.
"This project exposes material that's never been published, let alone mapped before," said Erik Steiner, co-director of Stanford's Spatial History Project at CESTA.
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