Historically, grasslands occupied approximately one billion acres in the U.S. – about one half of the landmass of the 48 contiguous states. The vast majority of the grasslands were found west of the Mississippi River. However, some native grasslands were scattered throughout the Midwestern and Southeastern States.
Most existing privately owned grasslands are in the Central Plains region between the Mississippi River and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. At pre-settlement, 64% of the US grasslands were east of the Rocky Mountains. Grasslands west of the Rocky Mountains (approximately 332 million acres) were largely retained under federal management, while more than 90% of those lands east of the Rockies (approximately 565 million acres) were placed under private ownership.
Over 80% of the pasture and rangeland in the 22 western states is in operations whose owners are sole proprietorships, partnerships, or family-held corporations and are operated by persons over 45 years of age. Approximately 90% of the pasture and rangeland is in farms or ranches that contain 6,000 or more acres and have operators who own either all or part of the land they operate.
Richard Conner, Andrew Seidl, Larry VanTassell & Neal Wilkins