JUST HOW BIG ARE WE

May 21, 2016


My wife and I went to a party this afternoon—an outdoor party given by a company devoted to fitness.  They wanted to show their appreciation for allowing their clients to beat them up several times each week.  (We even pay for them doing this. Go figure.)  Great party and it made me realize what a marvelous country we live in.  There is room on top of room if you happen to be in the right “neck of the woods”.  We traveled only thirty-five (35) minutes to Jasper Highlands, Tennessee to enjoy the day and say hello to our friends.  The location was on the top of Jasper Mountain.  Take a look.

Looking West

This is looking West from the top of the Highlands.

Looking South

Looking South from the Highlands.

It got me to thinking: Just how big are we in this country?

Together, the forty-eight (48) contiguous states and Washington, D.C. occupy a combined area of 3,119,884.69 square miles (8,080,464.3 km2), which is 1.58% of the total surface area of Earth. Of this area, 2,959,064.44 square miles (7,663,941.7 km2) is land, composing 83.65% of U.S. land area, similar to the area of Australia.  Officially, 160,820.25 square miles (416,522.5 km2) is water area, composing 62.66% of the nation’s total water area.

The contiguous United States would be placed 5th in the list of countries and dependencies by area; the total area of the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, ranks fourth. Brazil is the only country that is larger in total area than the contiguous United States, but smaller than the entire United States, while RussiaCanada and China are the only three countries larger than both. The 2010 census population of this area was 306,675,006, comprising 99.33% of the nation’s population, and a density of 103.639 inhabitants/sq mi (40.015/km2), compared to 87.264/sq mi (33.692/km2) for the nation as a whole.

If we just look at Alaska, we see the following:

According to an October 1998 report by the United States Bureau of Land Management, approximately sixty-five percent (65%) of Alaska is owned and managed by the U.S. federal government as public lands, including a multitude of national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges. Of these, the Bureau of Land Management manages 87 million acres (35 million hectares), or 23.8% of the state. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. It is the world’s largest wildlife refuge, comprising 16 million acres (6.5 million hectares).

Of the remaining land area, the state of Alaska owns 101 million acres (41 million hectares), its entitlement under the Alaska Statehood Act. A portion of that acreage is occasionally ceded to organized boroughs, under the statutory provisions pertaining to newly formed boroughs. Smaller portions are set aside for rural subdivisions and other homesteading-related opportunities. These are not very popular due to the often remote and roadless locations. The University of Alaska, as a land grant university, also owns substantial acreage which it manages independently.

Another forty-four (44) million acres (18 million hectares) are owned by 12 regional, and scores of local, Native corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971. Regional Native corporation Doyon, Limited often promotes itself as the largest private landowner in Alaska in advertisements and other communications. Provisions of ANCSA allowing the corporations’ land holdings to be sold on the open market starting in 1991 were repealed before they could take effect. Effectively, the corporations hold title (including subsurface title in many cases, a privilege denied to individual Alaskans) but cannot sell the land. Individual Native allotments can be and are sold on the open market, however.

Various private interests own the remaining land, totaling about one percent of the state. Alaska is, by a large margin, the state with the smallest percentage of private land ownership when Native corporation holdings are excluded.

To get an idea as to just how big Alaska is, take a look at the map below.

How Big is Alaska

OK, now let’s look at our biggest state within the contiguous United States—Texas.

Texas

Texas is the second largest U.S. state, behind Alaska, with an area of 268,820 square miles (696,200 km2). Though ten percent (10%) larger than France and almost twice as large as Germany or Japan, it ranks only 27th worldwide among country subdivisions by size. If it were still an independent country, Texas would be the 40th largest behind Chile and Zambia.

Now if you really want to talk about the wide open spaces, take a look at the area around Telluride, Colorado.  You would think enough room for the entire nation.

Colorado

Colorado (2)

We are a vast country with something to satisfy every taste. You can travel to Manhattan where the population density puts you right on top of everyone else or Alaska where you nearest neighbor may be twenty miles away.

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