Public vs. Private


Are Working Landscapes Desirable?

Natural Resources

Economic Development

Government Presence

Neighbor vs. Neighbor

Public vs. Private

Urban Sprawl


Land management is how we treat the land and how we maintain it for future use. Which landowners do a better job treating the land and keeping it healthy, public owners or private owners? It’s not an easy question to answer because there are so many different ways to manage land. Land management can become a complex issue because some landscapes are very fragile.

Cowboy philosopher Will Rogers once said, "Buy land. They ain’t makin’ it anymore" This applies to fragile, unique, and ordinary land. So who should own the scenic fragile landscapes? There are private, non-government landowners such as independent citizens, non-profit organization, and corporations. There are public lands owned by city, county, state, or federal government agencies. Does it matter who owns these landscapes?

Fragile Lands
Landscapes that are considered "sensitive," "fragile," or "unique" need extra special attention to prevent their destruction. These special landscapes risk having their scenery, air and water quality, biodiversity, and animal habitats challenged by inappropriate development. These landscapes also risk having their resources depleted. Once their special qualities are gone, they’re gone forever.

Accessibility is also an issue. Do people have the right to visit fragile and scenic locations? What if these lands are privately owned? Can the owners charge a fee to use the land?
When comparing public and private owners to determine who manages the land better, it’s important to look at individual owners or ownership groups within the public and private sectors.

What do you think?
Who should control sensitive and unique environments?


Explore More: Working Landscapes
Copyright 2004, Iowa Public Television
The Explore More project is supported by funds from the
Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust
and the USDE Star Schools Program.






Should the Loess Hills Become a National Park?
Have you ever visited a national park—maybe the Grand Canyon or Mammoth Caves? These publicly owned areas are certainly unique and worth seeing. More

Preservation: Not a Working Landscape
A preserved landscape is a habitat area that is taken out of production so that it can retain its natural state into the future. This is land with a quality or characteristic that makes it distinct and unique. More

Rails to Trails
Railroads were once the primary form of getting both people and products from one town to another through the first half of the twentieth century. Their popularity eventually gave way to the car, semi-truck, and airplane. As fewer people and products used the trains, the railroads abandoned their tracks. More

A Media Mogul and Working Landscape Architect
Ted Turner is the largest private landowner in the United States. This media billionaire (owner of TBS, CNN, TNT, the Cartoon Network) owns nearly two million acres of ranchland in Florida, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Carolina, and South Dakota. More

PBS NewsHour Online Links

In California, the public has the right to visit the beaches, but private homes line the beach areas. Are private landowners restricting the public's right to the beach? This article looks into it.

Bruce Babbit, former Secretary of the Interior, discusses what it took for him to get people together around public land, monuments, forests, and parks.

In the southeast United States, states like Tennessee are having issues with logging. Some loggers have switched from selective logging—cutting down the largest and most valuable trees—to clear cutting entire areas. Here what outdoor enthusiasts, property owners, loggers, and local politicians have to say about it.

Web Site Links
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
"The department's mission is to manage, protect, conserve, and develop Iowa's natural resources in cooperation with other public and private organizations and individuals, so that the quality of life for Iowans is significantly enhanced by the use, enjoyment and understanding of those resources."

Iowa Division of Forests and Prairies
(Iowa DNR)
See the kinds of programs the DNR provides rural land owners.

Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge
Research the animals of the tallgrass prairie. This wildlife refuge in Iowa is the largest reconstructed tallgrass prairie in the United States.

The National Wildlife Federation
The National Wildlife Federation, the nation's largest member supported conservation group, provides information on endangered species, water quality, and wetland conservation. These are issues that affect working landscapes. The site includes "Saving our Watersheds: A Field Guide to Watershed Restoration."

New Jersey Land Use Regulation Program
New Jersey looks at its needs for wetlands when developing land. This site explains the Freshwater Wetlands Program and explains what land developers needs to know before changes can be made to the land.

Saskatchewan Naturally
"The Rice River Paradox" is a story that appeared in Saskatchewan Naturally, a magazine out of Saskatchewan, Canada. This article looks at the role of the Rice River and whether it fits into a working landscape because of the special qualities it has for the environment.

The Florida Everglades is a unique wetland environment. It exists nowhere else in the world. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is a project that is looking to fix some of the problems that the Florida Everglades is experiencing. This site gives you an in-depth look at the CERP, the Everglades, and related issues.