Public Land Inventory
NRSIG Budget: $48,478
Project Budget: $48,478
Sponsors: WA RCO
Timeline: December 2013 through June 2014
Partners: WA DNR, WA DFW, WA RCO, WA Parks, GeoEng


The Public Lands Inventory is intended as a tool for Washingtonians to better understand the location, use, and purchase price of recreation and natural resource lands owned and managed by federal, state, and local governments. The inventory also helps state agencies better collaborate and manage these lands by revealing current and future opportunities for partnerships.

The Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) was asked by the state Legislature [1] to provide an inventory of lands in Washington owned by federal, state, and local governments, and by Native American tribes by July 1, 2014.

The Legislature also asked RCO to make recommendations on the standardization of record keeping and a preferred process for the centralization of acquisition data.

The Public Lands Inventory budget proviso stipulated that the inventory be web-accessible and include a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based interactive map. This is the first web-based interactive mapping application for public lands for the state. The proviso further required that the inventory include ownership, ownership type, location, and acreage information for each parcel. It required that land be categorized according to its principal use, including, but not limited to, developed recreation land, habitat and passive recreation land, and revenue generation. The proviso indicated that the inventory should include the intended use at the time of acquisition, the current use, acquisition cost, and funding sources for lands acquired by state agencies within the past 10 years. The proviso specified that RCO collaborate with JLARC staff in the completion of the inventory.

The proviso did not identify which public lands to include in the inventory, except that it specifically required the inclusion of developed recreation land, habitat and passive recreation land, and lands that are principally used for revenue generation. As past inventories have focused on natural resource and recreation lands, RCO assumed that the Legislature would prefer a deliverable of similar scope. Due to these factors and the limited time and funding available, RCO focused the 2014 inventory on publicly-owned natural resource and recreation lands.

Early in the planning process, RCO concluded that the schedule and budget requirements of the proviso limited its ability to collect new public lands data. Instead, RCO worked with its partners to integrate existing data sources for use in the inventory.

Our Work

Through the existing cooperative agreement between DNR and the University of Washington, RCO supported improvements to the Washington State Parcel Database so that it could be used for this project. Staff from the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences integrated ownership data provided by state land management agencies into a 2014 state subset of the parcel database.


The estimated total land area of Washington State is 45.6 million acres. As a percent of land area, non-public ownership is roughly 57 percent. All public natural resource and recreation lands total about 19.8 million acres.

Of the 19.8 million acres in public ownership, 12.7 million, or 64 percent, are owned by the federal government. The available federal data did not distinguish between land use types, so the federal acreage total includes lands presumably not used for recreation. State-owned natural resource and recreation lands represent roughly 6.5 million acres, or 33 percent of public lands in Washington State.


RCO Project Webpage

Project Final Report

The Public Lands Inventory Web application





[1] 2013–15 Capital Budget proviso (Section 3174 of Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5035)