Land Use

Land use refers to an administrative decision that specifies the appropriate or designated types of use for a given piece of land.



Map of Data

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Resource Information

For private lands, land use is usually expressed in terms of zoning and the allowable uses of land per ordinance. Allowable uses typically fall into categories of similar and compatible uses, such as residential, agricultural, or industrial.

For public lands, land use is generally less specific than zoning regulations, and often several uses can occur across the same lands. Public land uses are authorized and guided by management objectives of the managing land agency such as the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “multiple use sustained yield” or the Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR) “sustainable use” of resources of the Great Salt Lake.

Best Management Practices

Appropriate and allowable uses for lands are defined through planning processes specific to the agency or government that has jurisdiction over the lands. For most private, federal, and state lands, land use decisions are made through systematic planning processes. The best land use decisions are made through planning processes, which include open public participation and take into consideration potential impacts to the social, economic, and natural environment. Though this is not the case for some federal and state properties, which are managed for specific purposes, such as for lands owned or managed by Utah’s State and Institutional Trust Lands (SITLA), tribal governments, and military lands.

Private Property

Private lands are regulated by land use ordinances and zoning districts approved by local and county governments. Zoning districts, and the regulations established within the zoning districts, are authorized by Utah State Code 17-27a-505 and municipalities 10-9a-505. Land use ordinance and zoning maps are legislative decisions and established through planning processes open to public discussion and voted on by county and city councils.

Applicable County Land Use Plans:

US Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act FLPMA) of 1976 mandates the BLM to manage lands under multiple-use philosophy.[1] A component of FLPMA is the requirement for an open and public land use planning process, also known as the resource management plan, to determine the optimal use of public lands for recreation, conservation, and commercial activities. The most recent planning document governing land use for this region is the 1988 Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement.[2]

US Forest Service (USFS)

The USFS manages land use decisions by developing forest plans under the National Forest Management Act of 1976. The most current guidance for implementing the Act is the 2012 Planning Rule; this timeline provides a history of the USFS planning process. Forest plans also require consideration of alternatives and public input under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. This provides an open planning process to assist land managers understand stakeholders’ desires for various land uses as well as identify potential impacts of those uses. The most recent planning document for this region is the Revised Forest Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.[3]

Applicable USFS Planning Documents:

Department of Defense (DOD)

The DOD is the third-largest land manager within in the WFRC, with nearly 1.6 million acres of property. The DOD operates the Utah Test & Training Range North, Tooele Army Depot, Hill Air Force Base, Dugway Proving Grounds, and Camp Williams Army National Guard. These facilities serve critical national security interests and land use decisions are made internally, though usually after consulting appropriate local, state, and federal agencies (e.g., the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and US Fish and Wildlife Service).

Applicable DOD Planning Documents:

Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

The DNR manages about 640,000 acres of land as state parks (Antelope Island), Wildlife Reserves and Management Areas, and State Sovereign Lands (Great Salt Lake) under the Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands (FFSL). In general, state parks and wildlife areas are managed primarily for resource protection, while the State of Utah manages the Great Salt Lake under a multiple-use paradigm.

Applicable DNR planning documents:

Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA)

More than 250,000 acres of SITLA trust lands are distributed across the WFRC area. Rather than manage lands for natural resources, SITLA is directed by Utah Administrative Code to maximize commercial gain from these properties through sale, lease, or exchange. These transactions occur through sales and leases of individual properties but also through large-scale land and mineral right consolidations.

Tribal Lands

Tribal lands in the region include the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes and the Goshute Tribe, which are both in western Tooele County. Tribal lands are sovereign lands not subject to local or state governments. However, tribal governments must be consulted during planning processes involving lands with historical Native American uses.

Great Salt Lake

Under the Public Trust Doctrine, the State of Utah has fee title ownership of the bed of the Great Salt Lake as Sovereign Lands.[4] The State’s management jurisdiction is assigned to the DNR FFSL (Utah Administrative Code R652-70-100). The previously cited comprehensive management plan for the Great Salt Lake provides management direction to achieve reasonable and beneficial uses of the lake’s resources under multiple-use, sustained-yield principles (Utah Code 65A-2-1). The supplemental Mineral Leasing Plan provides specific guidance related to existing and potential future mineral leasing activities on the lake. The waters and wetlands of the Great Salt Lake are jurisdictional under the federal Clean Water Act (see  Wetlands).

Economic Considerations

“Land use” is not a resource in the same sense as most other resources to be considered in county resource management plans. In this case, land use is the designated, preferred, or allowable uses of a given piece of land based on the planning preferences of the landowner or jurisdiction responsible for the land. The implementation and management of those uses, such as agriculture, wildlife, water quality, etc., are examined in the respective chapters of this document.  

Important public policy concerns are the costs of administering public lands and the revenues generated from public land uses. Economic cost-benefit analyses should be completed prior to considering shifts in land use. Considerations include:

The federal government distributes payments in lieu of taxes to states and counties. A 2015 summary of county payments by Headwaters Economics.[6]

Impact Considerations
  • Surface Land Ownership- Comprehensive surface land ownership maintained by SITLA. Use this GIS data to determine land management agency or jurisdiction responsible for land use decisions. 
  • Water Related Land Use– Comprehensive land use delineation for urban and agricultural areas of Utah created by the Utah Division of Water Resources. The data depicts the types and extent of irrigated crops, as well as information concerning phreatophytes, wet/open water areas, dry land agriculture and residential/industrial areas. The primary business driver for this data is for constructing and analyzing the state’s annual water budget, thought it can provide other land use information, such as calculating land use changes over time (i.e. agriculture to urban).

Data Download
  GIS Data Map Service Web Map Document  Tabular Data  Website
Data NameData ExplanationPublication DateSpatial AccuracyContact
National Conservation Easement Database
Conservation EasementsOctober 2015Unknown NCED National Conservation Easement Database
USFS Land Status Record System
US Forest Service Land Status Record System for Lands under Forest Service ManagementLive DataVariousUSDA Forest Service
Lands and Realty Management
Water-Related Land Use
Layer depicts the types and extent of irrigated crops, as well as information concerning phreatophytes, wet/open water areas, dry land agriculture and residential/industrial areas. The primary business driver for this dataset is for constructing and analyzing the state’s annual water budget.
More Information
20151:24,000Utah Division of Water Resources
Land Ownership
Surface Land Ownership; use Admin field to identify administrative agencyUpdated Weekly1:24,000State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
GIS Group
National Landscape Conservation System contains wilderness areas, wilderness study areas and national conservation areas3/21/20141:24,000Bureau of Land Management in Utah
USFS Roadless Areas (2001)
2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule (36 CFR 294, Subpart B)7/21/20001:100,000USDA Forest Service
Areas of Critical Environmental Concern which require special management attention to protect  areas of significant valuesJanuary 20101:24,000Bureau of Land Management in Utah
National Wild and Scenic River System
River segments from USFS, BLM, FWS, and NPS 20091:24,000National Atlas of the United States


  1. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management Office of Public Affairs. 2001. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act, as amended.
  2. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Salt Lake District. 1988. Proposed Pony Express Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement, September.
  3. U.S. Forest Service. 2003. Revised Forest Plan for the Wasatch -Cache National Forest, February.
  4. Slade, D. C. 1990. Putting the Public Trust Doctrine to Work: The Application of the Public Trust Doctrine to the Management of Lands, Waters, and Living Resources of the Coastal States. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection, Coastal Resources Management Division.
  5. University of Utah, Bureau of Economic and Business Research. 2014. An Analysis of a Transfer of Federal Lands to the State of Utah. A report prepared for the Utah Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office. November. 
  6. Headwaters Economics, Inc. 2015. County Payments: History, Context, and Policy. Accessed February 06, 2016.