Land of the free, home of the brave... and 2 million acres just for golf courses.
The United States is a sweeping jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures—each with a story about how its land is used for business and pleasure. Government data does a good job of establishing top-line figures, but understanding how America uses its 1.9 billion acres in intimate detail wasn't really possible until Bloomberg News set out to paint that picture.
We searched through government databases and obscure agency spreadsheets to determine how every acre of U.S. land is used. We calculated the data as 250,000-acre chunks and painstakingly divided them among the contiguous 48 U.S. states. The result: nearly 8,000 equally-sized squares categorized by the primary use of the land and then arranged—by hand—based on where on the map it fell.
The maps are a striking and digestible visual display. Most American readers are comfortable navigating data displayed on maps, and journalists have many sophisticated tools at their disposal to create them—tools the Bloomberg Graphics team routinely lean on. But these manually-composed maps resonated with readers for being simultaneously familiar as a U.S. map and novel in its presentation.
This graphic was the most popular interactive of 2018. The feature drove millions of visitors to Bloomberg.com, with 1.4 million coming from Facebook alone. Apple News was so impressed with the maps and graphics that it asked Bloomberg to build a version of the story for their platform, resulting in 3.9 million additional readers on Apple News.
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