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Report on the Environment



The land within the boundaries of the United States—covering nearly 2.3 billion acres—provides food, fiber, and shelter for all Americans, as well as terrestrial habitat for many other species.

  • Land is the source of most extractable resources, such as minerals and petroleum.
  • Land produces renewable resources and commodities including livestock, vegetables, fruit, grain, and timber.
  • Land supports residential, industrial, commercial, transportation, and other uses.
  • Land, and the ecosystems it is part of, provide services such as trapping chemicals as they move through soil, storing and breaking down chemicals and wastes, and filtering and storing water.

The use of land, what is applied to or released on it, and its condition change constantly: there are changes in the types and amounts of resources that are extracted, the distribution and nature of land cover types, the amounts and types of chemicals used and wastes managed, and perceptions of the land's value.

While human activities on land (including food and fiber production, land development, manufacturing, and resource extraction) provide multiple economic, social, and environmental benefits to communities, they can also involve the creation, use, or release of chemicals and pollutants that can affect the environment and human health.

EPA works with other federal agencies, states, and partners to protect land resources, ecosystems, environmental processes, and uses of land through regulation of chemicals, waste, and pollutants, and through cleanup and restoration of contaminated lands.

The complex responsibilities of land management underscore the challenges of collecting data and assessing trends on the state of land. Numerous agencies and individuals have responsibilities for managing and protecting land in the United States. Responsibilities may include protecting resources associated with land (e.g., timber, minerals) and/or land uses (e.g., wilderness designations, regulatory controls).

  • Approximately 40 percent of the nation is owned or managed by public agencies.1 The other 60 percent is managed by private owners under a variety of federal, state, and local laws.
  • The largest owners of public land at the federal level are the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Defense.
  • Local governments have primary responsibilities for regulating land use, while state and federal agencies regulate chemicals and waste that are frequently used on, stored on, or released to land.

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ROE indicators are presented to address five fundamental questions about the state of the nation's land:

Indicators: Land Cover

Indicators: Land Use

Indicators: Chemicals Used on Land

Indicators: Wastes

Indicators: Contaminated Land

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[1] Bigelow, D., and A. Borchers. 2017. Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2012. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. (2 pp, 199 K, About PDF)

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