The Van Trump Report

Putting America’s Land Usage Into Economic Perspective

America has one of the largest landmasses in the world at its disposal with over 3.8 million square miles, and that’s without taking into account either Alaska or Hawaii. In an interesting article recently published by the World Economic Forum, they raised the question of how America’s land actually gets used by our economy, meaning for example, what percentage of land is taken up by urban areas, and how much farmland and forests exist in comparison. The maps below were produced by the McHarg Center and offer a unique perspective of the various ways how our resources are managed across various types of lands.

One hundred million more people are expected to live in the US by 2100, making the sustainability of our resources critical. Keep in mind most of them are projected to move into urban settings, placing new challenges as well as opportunities for businesses. The article identifies three specific types of land, urban areas, forests, and agriculture.

Urban Areas may only take up 2% of the land, but nearly 82% of Americans called it home in 2018. Economic productivity generally follows the masses and in the same year it was estimated that 32% of our national GDP came from a mere 31 counties. Most of those were located around major cities such as Los Angeles or New York. I should mention, according to research by the McKinsey Global Institute, it’s estimated that by 2030, 60% of job growth could come from just 25 urban areas. 

Forests, parks, and wetlands, on the other hand, make up over 30% of our country’s land, including our protected national and state parks. California and Oregon are the states with the most forested land, but as we have unfortunately witnessed in recent years, they have been plagued by wildfires in the dry summer months. Wetland acres are also suffering as they nearly been cut in half over the years having been drained to make way for agriculture, most notably in the Great Lakes region.

Finally, the last set of maps below reveal where and what is grown across our country. Agricultural, food, and related industries contributed $1.05 trillion or 5.4% to U.S. GDP in 2017. Much of these crops feed not only Americans but other parts of the world too. Presently, the U.S. is the world’s largest beef producer, followed by Brazil. In fact, beef production takes up 40% of total livestock-related land-use domestically. It’s worth noting that although fewer American consumers are opting for meat in their diets, production is remaining high. Further, as incomes continues to increase worldwide, the global appetite for meat is set to rise along with it.

Rising regulatory pressures will most likely be put on the limited U.S. land and natural resources in the coming years, and this pressure along with consumer sentiment and quickly changing technology will be agricultures playing field of the near future. Make sure you are staying on top of the trends as this pressure will be felt everywhere. (Source:

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