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Public lands

In all modern states, a portion of land is held by central or local governments. This is called public land. The system of tenure of public land, and the terminology used, varies between countries. The following examples illustrate some of the range.
In several Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, public lands are referred to as Crown lands. Recent proposals to sell Crown lands have been highly controversial.
Public lands on the West Bank of Israel are based on the Ottoman Empire law specifying that land not worked for over ten years becomes 'state lands'. This became the base for deciding cases brought up by Arabs when certain Israeli settlements were created on presumed barren land (see Halamish).
The majority of public lands in the United States are held in trust for the American people by the federal government and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the United States National Park Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, or the Fish and Wildlife Service under the Department of the Interior, or by the United States Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture. Other federal agencies that manage public lands include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United States Department of Defense, which includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Wilderness is a special designation for public lands which have been completely undeveloped. The concept of wilderness areas was legislatively defined by the 1964 Wilderness Act. Wilderness areas can be managed by any of the above Federal agencies, and some parks and refuges are almost entirely designated wilderness. A wilderness study area is a tract of land that has wilderness characteristics, and is managed as wilderness, but has not received a wilderness designation from Congress.
The concept of a formal designation and conservation of public lands dates back to our first National Parks. While designating the parks as public, the conservation was another matter. Theodore Roosevelt and his conservation group, Boone and Crockett Club took matters into their own hands, by creating laws and regulations that protected these national treasures. Roosevelt and the Boone and Crockett Club continued on influencing the creation of scores of public lands including the National Refuge System, USFS and the United States National Forest system.
Most state- and federally managed public lands are open for recreational use. Recreation opportunities depend on the managing agency, and run the gamut from the less restrictive, undeveloped wide open spaces of BLM lands to the highly developed and controlled national and state parks. Wildlife refuges and state wildlife management areas, managed primarily to improve habitat, are generally open to wildlife watching, hiking, and hunting, except for closures to protect mating and nesting, or to reduce stress on wintering animals. National forests generally have a mix of maintained trails and roads, wilderness and undeveloped portions, and developed picnic and camping areas.
Historically in the western United States, much public land is leased for grazing by cattle or sheep (most National Park Service areas are closed to livestock grazing). This includes vast tracts of National Forest and BLM land, as well as land on some Wildlife Refuges. National Parks are the exception. This use became controversial in the late 20th century as it was examined by environmentalists and scientists concerned about the impact of these exotic animals on native plant populations and watersheds.
Large tracts of public land in the United States are available for leasing for petroleum or mineral production. Lands which have a high likelihood of producing valuable resources can, as of 2018, command prices as high as $80,000 an acre per year. Large tracts of other lands, where the likelihood of the presence or successful exploitation of resources are very low, could be leased, as of 2018, for as low as $1.50 an acre per year. The Trump administration greatly expanded mineral leasing resulting in a substantial increase in fracking in likely locations in Wyoming and New Mexico, but a great deal of land where prospects for successful production was leased at very low rates to speculators.