Fascinating look at how America uses its land


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/08/01/fascinating-look-at-how-americ.html


Very cool graphic.

The private landowner portion must overlap with other stuff, right?


Well, that sure is a compelling argument for eating less meat (says the guy currently wearing a T-shirt that says “My favorite animal is steak”). Look at all that pasture land!

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The cattle percentage is very misleading.

A large percentage of that land is scrub land owned by the BLM. They let ranchers run cattle on it because the ecological impact is similar to the bison that used to live on the land. Any other use would destroy the land. But it only supports a couple of cows per square mile. So in many ways it’s more like park land than ranch land. Using for anything other than grazing would be an ecological disaster.

The beef you buy in the store probably got most of its calories from corn rather than from grass. The chunk of land marked as “livestock feed” supports a lot more cattle than the chunk marked as “cow pasture / range”. The ratio of “livestock feed” to “food we eat” is the argument against meat eating, not the “cow pasture / range” land.


Yeah…that plot vs “Deserts/Wetlands” is pretty horrifying.


Livestock feed also includes grassland that gets harvested for hay every fall. Some of that is pristine prairie grassland , although likely privately owned. Harvesting the hay is analogous to regular natural wildfires and the passage of large herds of bison.
But I understand why there is always a need to skew the data towards veganism.


Oh. . . for a second I thought the geography actually matched up to what the land was being used for, but it’s just a visual representation of quantity. Sure as hell ain’t much “urban housing” in Maine.


Yeah, that tripped me up, too. I’ve been driving all over North Carolina and I haven’t seen any wheat. But I get it now.


Thank you for beating me to it.


Interesting how Weyerhauser all by itself is visible.


I guess “Urban Commercial” overlaps or includes Industrial use?


America uses a percentage of land for wildfires… I understand taking that percentage out of the timberland / national park totals, but it does look funny on the map.

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For sure. You go out camping in national forests and BLM land in Eastern Oregon, and it’s very wild and remote, but you’ll periodically see a few scrawny looking cattle wandering around.

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Very nice!

There’s something up with the golf courses/airports ratio. The text gives 2M/3M, but the box areas give 1/3. I think golf courses should occupy 1M acres.

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Just spent a week in Maine and did not see a single instance of ‘urban housing’ WTF?


The thing that I don’t like about this map and concept is that it leads to some really bad assumptions- such as that all land is pretty much the same and could be used for different purposes, and to a lesser extent that we should optimize the land for productivity.

A lot of the properties of land are based on how much rain the area the land is located at gets. How wet land is determines a lot about what you can grow on it or what you can use it for. You can use water from different areas to irrigate land to cheat that a bit, but it creates unmitigated environmental disasters like the mess that is the southwest. (It also causes people who moved to the desert who never thought about water to suddenly need to think about water and assume that all areas have the same water challenges that they do. While in the east, a good 75% of the time out water challenges is that we have too much of it.)

You can look at this data and say “oh, neat!”

You can’t look at this data and say “imagine what our GNP would be if it was all urban city!” or " we shouldn’t eat beef because of all the land it uses" or a dozen other statements that you could formulate, based on your own beliefs.


a few interesting points to me:

  1. Urban and Rural housing appears to be roughly the same amount of space. Interesting how we cram so many more people into the same space by using multi level housing.

  2. I expected the Rural highways portion to be much larger

  3. Golf space is a tiny fraction. Everyone should remember that next time there is a thread ripping golf and someone says “but they take up too much space”

  4. We need to as a nation eat more veggies and less meat

  5. there is literally no spot for renewable energy resources (wind or solar farms)…this needs to change.


When “flowers” is bigger than “golf” I’ll let it go :wink:


So next time you hear a right wing trump supporting rancher bitch about the Federal government steeling his land and keeping him from grazing his cattle, aka the criminal Cliven Bundy, tell e’m to fuck off. Other than corporate welfare, they’re just about the biggest welfare recipients in our nation.

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“Using for anything other than grazing would be an ecological disaster.”
You’re joking, right? There are very many studies showing grazing negatively impacts our public lands. Desert or not, leave it in its natural state and stop allowing cattle to out compete the natural fauna in the area. They muddy up and shit in riparian areas, destroy cryobiotic soil and drive wildlife from water sources. I also don’t like camping in a field of cow turds. How about we just keep cattle off the vast majority of our public lands? The best practice is to just leave the land alone, It has survived nicely for millions of years without the ‘assistance’ of man and our domesticated offspring.

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