Mapping All the Land Uses in the Lower 48
Dave Merrill and Lauren Leatherby share a new data visualization project that illustrates the land uses of the 48 contiguous United States, "a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure."
The mapping project started by collecting data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that divides the United States into six major types of land use: pasture/range, forest, cropland, special use, miscellaneous, and urban. Configuring that data into squares representing 250,000 square acres of land provides perspective on how land is used in the country as a whole. Further levels of distinction provide additional perspective—for agriculture, for instance:
…the actual land area used to grow the food Americans eat is much smaller—only about the size of Indiana, Illinois and half of Iowa combined. More than a third of the entire corn crop is devoted to ethanol production. Most cropland is used for livestock feed, exports or is left idle to let the land recover.
For those keeping track at home, the most dominant land use in the country is devoted to pasture, and the federal government administers 25 percent of that land. "Between pastures and cropland used to produce feed, 41 percent of U.S. land in the contiguous states revolves around livestock," according to the article.