Federal Land Ownership: Current Acquisition and Disposal Authorities [December 13, 2012] [open pdf - 273KB]
"The federal government owns roughly 635 million acres, more than a quarter of the land in the United States. These lands are heavily concentrated in 12 western states (including Alaska, but not Hawaii), where the federal government owns more than half of the overall land area. Four federal agencies-the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), all in the Department of the Interior (DOI), and the U.S. Forest Service (FS) in the Department of Agriculture-administer about 95% of those lands. This report describes the primary authorities of these agencies for acquiring and disposing of land. The various acquisition and disposal authorities were provided by Congress through various laws enacted over more than a century. The extent to which the agencies have authority to acquire and dispose of land, and the nature of the authorities, vary considerably. Some of the agencies have relatively broad authority to acquire and/or dispose of land. Most notably, the BLM has relatively broad authority for both acquisitions and disposals. By contrast, the NPS has no general authority to acquire land to create new park units or to dispose of park lands. The extent of the acquisition and disposal authorities for the FS and the FWS are not nearly as broad as the BLM's but not nearly as restrictive as the NPS's. The FS authority to acquire lands is mostly limited to lands within or contiguous to the boundaries of a national forest. The agency has various authorities to dispose of land, but they are relatively constrained and infrequently used. The FWS has various authorities to acquire lands, but no general authority to dispose of its lands."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34273