The Future of Federal-State Land Exchanges

John Ruple
University of Utah, SJ Quinney College of Law




Bob_Keiter_zlggjzRobert B. Keiter
University of Utah – S.J. Quinney College of Law




June 24, 2014

University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 84

Today, the land ownership map of the West in many places resembles a crazy quilt, without reason or coherent pattern. Often no single owner (states, private entities, or the Federal government) owns enough contiguous land to allow effective management of land holdings, and fragmented ownership patterns generate a plethora of disputes over access and similar problems. 

While this paper focuses on examples from Utah, the challenges posed by a fragmented landscape and conflicting management objectives are much broader. Across the 11 contiguous Western states, state trust lands account for twice the acreage of National Parks and trust lands are often interspersed with protected or sensitive lands. Inholdings within National Forests, for example, total 14.3 million acres. While many inholdings are owned by private parties rather than state trust land agencies, the fact that National Forest inholdings in the 11 contiguous Western states account for more land than all of Maryland and Vermont combined indicates the scope of the problem.

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