NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Undeveloped Areas Still Vast

December 9, 1999

Environmentalists who claim open space is shrinking due to urban sprawl are correct -- sort of. States are losing more undeveloped area. It's just that even in states that are the fastest developing, the undeveloped areas are still vast.

  • Texas, which was developed faster than any other state in the five years ending in 1997, only has 5.5 percent of its land developed.
  • Twenty-five states have less than seven percent of land developed (Alaska was not included in the study by the U.S. Agriculture Department).
  • Even the most developed state, New Jersey, had 59.2 percent of its land undeveloped, while the least developed, Montana, had only 1.3 percent of developed land.
  • The national average, not counting Alaska but including Puerto Rico, was 7.1 percent of land developed.

Development typically drives up land values, providing a windfall to farmers who live near citites and choose to sell. However, government economists say the development of farmland poses no threat to the food supply because improved crop yields and technology have increased agricultural output nearly two percent a year since 1948, despite the fact that the amount of land farmed has declined.

Source: Peter Zachariadis (Associated Press), "Rate of Land Development Increasing, Report Says," Dallas Morning News, December 8, 1999.


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