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Report on the Environment

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Introduction

The land within the boundaries of the U.S., covering nearly 2.3 billion acres, provides food, fiber, and shelter for all Americans, as well as terrestrial habitat for many other species. Land is the source of most extractable resources, such as minerals and petroleum. Land produces renewable resources and commodities including livestock, vegetables, fruit, grain, and timber; it also supports residential, industrial, commercial, transportation, and other uses. Additionally, land and the ecosystems that it is part of provide services such as trapping chemicals as they move through soil, storing and breaking down chemicals and wastes, and filtering and storing water. The use of land, what is applied to or released on it, and its condition change constantly: there are changes in the types and amounts of resources that are extracted, the distribution and nature of cover types, the amounts and types of chemicals used and wastes managed, and perceptions of the land’s value.

Numerous agencies and individuals have responsibilities for managing and protecting land in the U.S., in terms of resources associated with land (e.g., timber, minerals) and land uses (e.g., wilderness designations, regulatory controls). Between 30 and 40 percent of the nation is owned or managed by public agencies.1 The other 60 to 70 percent is managed by private owners, under a variety of federal, state, and local laws. Local governments have primary responsibilities for regulating land use, while state and federal agencies regulate chemicals and waste that are frequently used on, stored on, or released to land. EPA is interested in land because human activities on land such as food and fiber production, land development, manufacturing, or resource extraction can involve the creation, use, or release of chemicals and pollutants that can affect the environment and human health.

EPA works with other federal agencies, states, and partners to protect land resources, ecosystems, environmental processes, and uses of land through regulation of chemicals, waste, and pollutants, and through cleanup and restoration of contaminated lands. The complexities of responsibilities underscore the challenges of collecting data and assessing trends on the state of land.

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