In the United States, there are several designations for public and private land use. Wilderness is land with the greatest protection of preservation. No permanent structures or motor vehicles are allowed in wilderness areas. Hiking and some livestock grazing is allowed. This includes over 109 million acres spread nationwide.
National parks and wildlife refuges are protected areas of scenic or ecological value that offer public access for recreation. These areas are maintained by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Parks and wildlife refuges account for 84 to 96 million acres of land. These areas are very popular, attracting over 310 million visitors a year.
National forests are public forests that are protected from conversion to croplands or housing. This includes 740 million acres. 2/3 are of these national forests are managed for commercial timber harvest, of which 3/4 are privately owned and located in the East. The remaining 1/4th is in the West and maintained by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Forest fires have increased since 2006 with increasing surface temperatures and drought seasons. Managing forest fires remains controversial as some advocate complete fire suppression and the removal of all dead trees and vegetation that can easily ignite, while others advocate decreasing logging or a combination of both.
In addition to this, nonfederal lands can be protected through private land trusts where land is protected from development through a trust operated by a non-profit organization and easements where the landowners give up development rights for the future but retain ownership of the parcel.
Some ecosystem restorations are in progress, such as a restoration of the Everglades. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is expected to take 36 years and $11 billion to complete. Congress approved this funding in 2000.
The Everglades is a network of wetland landscapes that used to occupy half of southern Florida. It is home to 16 wildlife refuges and four national parks and holds a great variety of species. Water quality once pristine has become polluted due to agricultural runoff. The new plan will build surface water storage reservoirs and aquifers, treat storm water, reuse wastewater, change management processes, and stop underground water seepage from occurring.
Additional restoration projects are planned for areas such as the Mississippi Delta which have been devastated by hurricanes and many deforested urban areas.