Land Use in the United States

In our departmental seminar on Friday, we had a speaker with a background in forestry.  He showed some graphs related to the amount of forest land in the United States, and I have to say I was a bit surprised how much land is in forest.  

Here is some useful (if not slightly dated) figures on land use from the USDA Economic Research Service. The figure from a longer document shows the breakdown:

Of all the land in the U.S., only 14.8% is in cropland used for crops (it's 17.7% in the contiguous 48 states).  27.1% is in grassland or pasture (32.3% in the 48 contiguous states).  About a quarter of the land (both in the US as a whole and in the lower 48) is in forest that is not grazed, and another 5.6 to 6.7% is in grazed forest land.   By the way: Special uses includes: "rural transportation, national/ State parks, wilderness and wildlife areas, national defense and industrial areas, and farmsteads and farm roads" and miscellaneous land includes "marshes, open swamps, bare rock areas, desert, and tundra."

Also from the 2007 report:

Total cropland increased in the late 1940s, declined from 1949 to 1964, increased from 1964 to 1978, and decreased again from 1978 to 2007. Between 2002 and 2007, total cropland decreased by 34 million acres to its lowest level since this series began in 1945 . . .

These are useful statistics in light of the common sorts of things I read like "agriculture has more impact on the environment than any other human activity" or "agriculture is the biggest threat to the environment."