More than meets the eye
How can Texas be the largest state? That's because what we define as a "state" actually consists of hybrid of private property and government property.
According to various analyses, only 1.7 percent of Texas is federally owned. In square miles, that’s a big number… about 7,000 square miles (18,000 sq. km), but that’s nothing compared to other states. Close to half of California is federal government owned, and nearly 96 percent of giant Alaska is government-owned.
Viewed through this lens, then, California is not much bigger than Nebraska, South Dakota, or Oklahoma, and is smaller than Kansas. That is one reason California sports such concentrated metropolitan areas, where the density of people per square mile reaches into the thousands.
Federal land serves many purposes, of course. It can be leased, and sometimes purchased, for use by businesses, for grazing cattle, logging, searching for natural resources, etc., and national parks are tourism destinations. Nevertheless, government-owned land can severely impact development and growth of urban areas.
In land-challenged Southern California, some of the most expensive and desirable property in the world, about 250,000 acres, is occupied the U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton. It’s location could scarcely be more desirable.
The installation forms the northern edge of San Diego county, abutting wealthy Orange County to the northwest and southern Riverside County to the northeast. Professor Robert Lang of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, notes that Camp Pendleton is the main reason those three sprawling Californian counties have not joined together into one contiguous urban area, as has happened to the north in Los Angeles County.
Texans have their state's unique history to thank for their exceptional amounts of private property. More on that next Monday. .:.
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More than meets the eye
Texas really is the biggest state in the Union
Texas is big. It’s not only synonymous with that adjective, the Lone Star state’s name is a form of the superlative… with good reason. From the shores of the Gulf of Mexico to the high plains of the Panhandle and East Texas forests to West Texas deserts, the state encompasses 268,580.82 square miles (695,621.13 square kilometers) of land and water.
That’s one-thousandth the land area of the entire world, oceans included. If it were a country, Texas would rank as the 41st largest nation in the world. According to the CIA World Factbook, 210 other countries would be smaller, including any single country in the European Union including the two largest, France and Spain.
Texas is the second largest of America’s 50 states, equaling 7 percent of its overall land area. "Second place?" some might scoff; second doesn’t count. Ahh, but there’s a lesser-known fact about land ownership in the United States that makes Texas far and away the largest state in the Union by a key measure. More on that tomorrow. .:.
Ever wonder what if? Historians call alternative scenarios "counterfactuals." At the StrangeMaps blog, there's a perfect example of a counterfactual for the Lone Star Republic in a map of the Texas Republic and land claims it had made far beyond its borders..:.
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