When she took office in January 2011, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) had a simple question: exactly how much property does the state own? She still hasn’t gotten an answer.
So, on Monday, Haley signed her ninth executive order of the year, this one instructing state agencies to provide an accounting of the property and land they own by Dec. 15.
“The fact it takes us 2.5 years to come up with a list of state-owned buildings means we own way too many state-owned buildings,” Haley said at a September meeting of the state’s Budget and Control Board. “At some point, it’s got to give.”
Haley’s request covers buildings and land owned by state agencies. Such holdings can be a touchy subject for states, as we wrote about Tuesday. Utah and other western states—where more than half the region is federally-owned public land — want ownership over more land currently owned by the federal government.
But some states are moving in the opposite direction. Like Haley, Wyoming’s Republican Gov. Matt Mead also wants a better accounting of how much land state agencies own. During next year’s legislative sessions, he plans to introduce a bill that would better track and cap the amount of land owned by state agencies, the Casper Star-Tribune reported this week. And legislators in Michigan last year passed a law capping the amount of public land the state could own until a strategy was developed.
“Having a comprehensive management policy for what land the state owns, and why, will help guide the quantity, location and use of our public lands in the future to better serve citizens,” Gov. Rick Snyder (R) said at the time.
The amount of public land owned by states varies. More than 12 percent of Michigan is state-owned public land, making it the seventh largest public landholder among states, according to a 1995 estimate by the National Wilderness Institute. Some 6.2 percent of Wyoming is state-owned public lands, making that state the 15th largest such landholder, proportionally. And South Carolina ranks 38th, with state-owned public land accounting for only about one percent of the total area. (The NWI estimate excluded land used for buildings, however.)
New York is home to the most state-owned public land, proportionally, at more than 36 percent of the state. Just 0.2 percent of Nevada is state-owned public land, making it the state with the smallest share.
While land ownership varies, state public land holdings account for less then 10 percent of the total area in 40 states.
(Source: National Wilderness Institute data.)