Land Use

Government Control of Land Strangles Rural Economies

Just twelve percent of land is in private hands in one county


In Skamania County, Wash., growing an economy is nearly impossible.

The federal government owns 80 percent of the land.

The state of Washington owns 8 percent.

Timber companies – who only pay sales taxes when they harvest – own 10 percent.

That leaves a measly 2 percent for your average Joe: not much by way of commercial and residential in this town of little more than 11,000 residents.

The numbers may be shocking to East Coasters or Midwesterners but here in the Pacific Northwest where lush forests dominate the landscape, it's the norm. And rural counties are faltering. In Skamania that means a 12.2 percent unemployment rate.