Map of the Human Footprint

James Rogers
05 Mar 2003 16:50:30 -0800

On Wed, 2003-03-05 at 10:06, Tom wrote:

> It still amazes me how much of Oregon and the west coast states in general
> is still thinly populated. There are some lush regions not more than an
> hour from portland.

The Pacific Northwest is one of my favorite corners of the world.  Among
the reasons it is thinly populated is that the Federal govt has actively
hindered development in much of the region.  They control a big enough
chunk of things in the western US in general that it becomes
economically infeasible to develop much outside the regions that have
had large populations for a long time.  It is generally not considered a
good thing to own land for the purpose of development that adjoins
actively managed Federal land.  Unfortunately, at least in the Pacific
Northwest, a great deal of the land outside the big cities adjoins
Federal land along one or more parcel boundaries.

The Federal government is not a very good neighbor, and even less so
when they actively "manage" the land that they own.  In many areas of
the Pacific Northwest, they purchase thousands of tiny parcels in areas
prime for future development, which has the effect of poisoning the
possibility of building the infrastructure required for a city, limiting
development to 1-5 acre estates and such in these areas.  Network
effects apply here, and having Federally controlled "dead" parcels
pervasively scattered in a particular region effectively kills real
economic development.

Much land for development in that part of the country is obtained
through uneven land trades with the government e.g. they'll give you the
parcels you need to actually get 320 contiguous acres for development
somewhere, in exchange for 600 currently private acres somewhere else
that is economically interesting.  Most of the big cities in the West
are growing through these types of land trades, and in doing so, are
effectively eliminating the possibility of people living anywhere but
those big cities.


-James Rogers