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Land Use Status and Trends 2007

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Land Use | Development | Erosion | Wetlands
About the Data | Glossary | Index of Tables

The National Resources Inventory (NRI) is a statistical survey of natural resource conditions and trends on non-Federal land in the United States. Non-Federal land includes privately owned lands, tribal and trust lands, and lands controlled by state and local governments.

The NRI provides nationally consistent statistical data on how these lands are used and on changes in land use patterns for the period 1982–2007. To assess conservation issues on non-Federal rural lands, this land use information must be analyzed in conjunction with other NRI data elements. Land uses of particular interest are those involving the production of the goods that are the foundation of our Nation's agricultural economy.

Land use is surprisingly dynamic, with annual shifts in and out of different uses. Examining net change in land use reveals general trends, but masks the real extent of land use change over time. In agriculture there are frequent shifts in the use of land among cropland, pastureland, rangeland, and forest land. Each time land changes use, it may affect erosion potential, contiguity of habitat, hydrologic features of the landscape, or other natural processes or functions.

Use of Land in 2007

  • The contiguous 48 states cover 1.9 billion acres; about 71% of this area is non-Federal rural land—nearly 1.4 billion acres.
  • Non-Federal rural lands are predominantly rangeland (409 million acres), forest land (406 million acres), and cropland (357 million acres). (Table 1)
Land use pie chart, see the surface area table for data values

Source: Table 1. Total Surface Area

  • Pastureland covers about 119 million acres; land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), 33 million acres; other rural land, 50 million acres; and water, 51 million acres. There are 402 million acres of Federal land. (Table 1)
  • In addition to the rural land, the non-Federal land base includes 111 million acres of developed land. (Table 1)
Cropland dot density map Pastureland dot density map
Rangeland dot density map Forest Land dot density map

Source: Table 1. Total Surface Area

Land use by farm production region map, see the surface area by farm production region table for data values

Source: Table 25. Land Cover/Use, by Farm Production Region

  • Nearly half of the Nation’s cropland is concentrated in two of the 10 Farm Production Regions—the Corn Belt and the Northern Plains. Each of those regions contains 24% of U.S. cropland. (Table 25)
  • Cropland makes up 52% of the Corn Belt and 44% of the Northern Plains. By contrast, only 6% of the Mountain region is cropland. (Table 25)
  • Over half of all land enrolled in the CRP nationwide is in the Northern Plains (9 million acres) and Mountain (8 million acres) regions. (Table 25)
  • Slightly more than 4% of the Northern Plains is enrolled in the CRP in 2007. Only 141,100 acres in the Northeast—0.1% of the total area there—is enrolled in the CRP. (Table 25)
  • More than 90% of non-Federal rangeland in the coterminous 48 states is concentrated in the Mountain, Southern Plains, and Northern Plains regions. (Table 25)
  • Rangeland makes up 65% of the non-Federal area of the Mountain region and 53% of the non-Federal area of the Southern Plains region. (Table 25)
  • Most U.S. non-Federal forest land is east of the Mississippi River. About 48% of this land is concentrated in three regions—the Northeast, Southeast, and Appalachian. (Table 25)
  • Forest land makes up more than half of the Northeast (58%) and Southeast (53%) and nearly half of the Appalachian (48%) and Delta States (47%) regions. (Table 25)
  • More than half of U.S. developed land in 2007 is in four regions: Northeast (15% of all developed land), Southeast (14%), Corn Belt (13%), and Appalachian (13%). (Table 25)
  • Developed land makes up 10% or more of the total area of three of these regions (Northeast, 14%; Southeast, 12%; and Appalachian, 11%). (Table 25)
  • Federal land is highly concentrated in the West. Almost 66% of Federally owned land is in the Mountain region with another 22% in the Pacific. This ownership accounts for 48% of the Mountain region and 43% of the Pacific region. (Table 25)

Changes in Land Use — Cropland

  • Nationally, the acreage of cropland declined from 420 million acres in 1982 to 357 million acres in 2007—a decline of 63 million acres, or about 15% of the total acreage of cropland. The net decline between 2002 and 2007 was over 10 million acres, or about 3% of the 2002 acreage of 367 million. (Table 1 and Table 4)
  • Between 1982 and 2007, about 11 million acres were lost to development, essentially an irreversible loss. (Table 6)
Conversions from and to Cropland, 1982-2007,
in Millions of Acres, with Margins of Error
Period Conversions to other uses Conversions from other uses Total net change
1982-1987 28.9
±0.4
14.9
±0.5
-14.0
±0.7
1987-1992 34.1
±0.5
10.0
±0.4
-24.1
±0.6
1992-1997 19.5
±0.5
14.2
±0.4
-5.3
±0.6
1997-2002 27.3
±1.2
18.3
±0.8
-9.0
±1.5
2002-2007 14.2
±1.1
4.2
±0.6
-10.1
±1.3
1982-2007 93.4
±1.6
30.8
±1.7
-62.5
±2.0
  • Net cropland acreage in each of the 10 farm production regions declined during the period 1982–2007. The greatest losses were in the Southern Plains (12 million acres), Mountain (10 million acres); Northern Plains (7 million acres); and Southeast (7 million acres). (Table 28)
  • The Corn Belt lost more than 5 million acres of cropland, but this represents a loss of only 6% of the cropland in that region. (Table 28 and Table 25)
  • The percentage of cropland that is not cultivated has continued to increase since 1982. Non-cultivated cropland accounted for 15 percent (52 million acres) of cropland acreage in 2007, up from 11 percent (44 million acres) in 1982. (Table 2)
  • Acres of non-cultivated cropland increased between 1987-2002, followed by a slight decrease from 2002-2007. (Table 2)
Cropland bar chart, see the cropland table for data values

Source: Table 2. Cultivated and Non-Cultivated Cropland

Changes in Land Use — Grazing Land

  • During the 20 years between 1982 and 2002, non-Federal acreage devoted to grazing uses—rangeland, pastureland, and grazed forest land—declined from 615 million acres to 582 million acres, a decrease of over 5 percent. (Table 3)
  • The 2002 to 2007 time period saw a slight increase in the amount of grazing land—from 582 to 584 million acres. (Table 3)
Grazing land bar chart, see the grazing land table for data values

Source: Table 3. Grazing Land

  • Nationally, the acreage of pastureland declined from 131 million acres in 1982 to 119 million acres in 2007—a drop of 12 million acres, or about 9% of the total acreage of pasture. (Table 3 and Table 4)
  • During the 1982 to 2007 time period, about 7 million acres of pastureland were lost to development. (Table 6)
Conversions from and to Pastureland, 1982-2007,
in Millions of Acres, with Margins of Error
Period Conversions to other uses Conversions from other uses Total net change
1982-1987 17.6
±0.5
13.4
±0.5
-4.2
±0.7
1987-1992 13.0
±0.4
11.3
±0.5
-1.7
±0.6
1992-1997 19.0
±0.4
13.7
±0.4
-5.2
±0.6
1997-2002 17.6
±0.7
15.6
±0.9
-2.0
±1.1
2002-2007 8.2
±1.0
9.0
±0.9
0.8
±1.4
1982-2007 52.5
±1.8
40.2
±1.4
-12.3
±2.3
Instances where the margin of error is greater than or equal to the estimate are displayed in italics, indicating that the confidence interval includes zero and that the estimate should not be used.

  • The Northeast lost a greater percentage of its pastureland from 1982 to 2007 than did any other region, experiencing a 27% net loss. (Table 27)
  • Nationally, the acreage of non-Federal rangeland declined from 418 million acres in 1982 to 409 million acres in 2007—a decline of 9 million acres, or about 2% of the total acreage of rangeland. (Table 3 and Table 4)
Conversions from and to Rangeland, 1982-2007,
in Millions of Acres, with Margins of Error
Period Conversions to other uses Conversions from other uses Total net change
1982-1987 9.1
±0.4
3.8
±0.2
-5.3
±0.4
1987-1992 7.5
±0.4
3.9
±0.3
-3.7
±0.6
1992-1997 5.9
±0.4
4.5
±0.4
-1.4
±0.6
1997-2002 4.7
±0.4
5.3
±0.6
0.7
±0.7
2002-2007 2.3
±0.4
3.2
±0.8
0.9
±0.9
1982-2007 26.3
±1.7
17.5
±1.7
-8.8
±1.7
Instances where the margin of error is greater than or equal to the estimate are displayed in italics, indicating that the confidence interval includes zero and that the estimate should not be used.

Changes in Land Use — Forest Land

  • Nationally, the area in non-Federal forest land increased from 403 million acres in 1982 to 406 million acres in 2007. (Table 1)
  • Although about 17 million acres of non-Federal forest land were lost to development during this period, these losses were more than offset by conversions to forest land from other uses, principally pastureland (18 million acres), cropland (9 million acres), rangeland (3 million acres), and other rural land (3 million acres). (Table 6)
Conversions from and to Forest Land, 1982-2007,
in Millions of Acres, with Margins of Error
Period Conversions to other uses Conversions from other uses Total net change
1982-1987 6.9
±0.2
8.9
±0.4
2.0
±0.4
1987-1992 6.8
±0.3
6.8
±0.4
0.0
±0.5
1992-1997 9.1
±0.4
10.4
±0.4
1.3
±0.6
1997-2002 7.3
±0.4
8.0
±0.5
0.7
±0.6
2002-2007 4.4
±0.3
3.5
±0.9
-0.9
±1.0
1982-2007 31.7
±1.5
34.8
±1.5
3.0
±1.5
Instances where the margin of error is greater than or equal to the estimate are displayed in italics, indicating that the confidence interval includes zero and that the estimate should not be used.

Changes in Land Use — Other Rural Land

  • The category other rural land includes farmsteads and other farm structures, field windbreaks, barren land, and marshland. The acreage of land in this category increased slightly over the period 1982–2007, from 47 million acres to 50 million acres. (Table 1)
Conversions from and to Other Rural Land, 1982-2007,
in Millions of Acres, with Margins of Error
Period Conversions to other uses Conversions from other uses Total net change
1982-1987 2.4
±0.1
2.7
±0.2
0.3
±0.2
1987-1992 2.4
±0.2
2.9
±0.2
0.5
±0.3
1992-1997 3.3
±0.3
4.0
±0.3
0.7
±0.5
1997-2002 2.8
±0.3
3.0
±0.3
0.2
±0.4
2002-2007 1.3
±0.3
2.0
±0.4
0.7
±0.5
1982-2007 8.5
±0.5
10.9
±0.6
2.4
±0.7
Instances where the margin of error is greater than or equal to the estimate are displayed in italics, indicating that the confidence interval includes zero and that the estimate should not be used.

Tabular Results

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