New Study: U.S. Has Lost Nearly 18,000 Square Miles of Open Space

ARLINGTON, Va., March 16, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — America lost 17,800 square miles of open space to development between 2002 and 2017, according to a study released today by NumbersUSA. That’s equivalent to an area the size of Maryland and Connecticut combined.

"Our nation is losing open space at an alarming rate," said Leon Kolankiewicz, an environmental planner and co-author of the study. "Our analysis — which includes searchable county-level data — shows that every state has lost rural land this century."

The study — "From Sea to Shining Sprawling Sea: Quantifying the Loss of Open Space in America" — uses U.S. Department of Agriculture data from every state excluding Alaska to detail how much land has been converted from forests and fields into strip malls, subdivisions, and other development.

The study also identifies what drove that development on a county-by-county basis. The number-one contributor to the disappearance of open space was population growth.

Kolankiewicz’s research has implications for the Biden administration’s "30×30" initiative, which aims in part to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waterways by 2030.

"Our leaders at the local, state, and federal level will have to make hard choices in the years ahead," Kolankiewicz said. "We can stay on our current track — and continue to lose the equivalent of 17 Washington, D.C.’s worth of open space every year. Or we can recognize that our growing population is causing the loss of open space — and do something about it."

A link to the full report can be found here.

To request an interview with Leon Kolankiewicz or Eric Ruark, authors of "From Sea to Shining Sprawling Sea: Quantifying the Loss of Open Space in America," please contact Joe Timm at 202-471-4228 ext. 130 or

About NumbersUSA

NumbersUSA Education & Research Foundation educates opinion leaders, policymakers and the public on immigration legislation, policies and their consequences. We favor reductions in immigration numbers toward traditional levels that would allow present and future generations of Americans to enjoy a stabilizing U.S. population and a high degree of individual liberty, mobility, environmental quality, worker fairness, and fiscal responsibility.