The American West’s Great Checkerboard

As Long as the U.S. System Privileges Private Property, Thousands of Acres of Public Lands Will Remain Off Limits

The West has a checkerboard problem.

According to the company behind the popular hunting app OnX, 530,000 acres of public lands in California alone are inaccessible to the general public. That’s because they alternate with privately owned lands in the shape of a checkerboard.

It’s easy to see the checkerboard and its inaccessible public lands just by looking at a road atlas. The western Mojave Desert, the swath northwest of Lake Tahoe, and the area between Redding and the Oregon border all have alternating square-mile checks of private and public land. But …

The Black-Owned Alabama Plantation That Taught Me the Value of Home

After Emancipation, Ex-Slaves Took Over the Cotton Fields. Today Their Descendants Still Cherish the Land.

By the time I was eight years old, in 1948, my parents, my sister, and I had lived in five different states and had moved more often than that. My …