2010   Financial Report of the United States Government

Notes to the Financial Statements

Note 27. Stewardship Land and Heritage Assets

Stewardship land is Federally-owned land that is set aside for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations, and land on which military bases are located. Except for military bases, this land is not used or held for use in general Government operations. Stewardship land is land that the Government does not expect to use to meet its obligations, unlike the assets listed in the Balance Sheets. Stewardship land is measured in non-financial units such as acres of land and lakes, and a number of National Parks and National Marine Sanctuaries. Examples of stewardship land include national parks, national forests, wilderness areas, and land used to enhance ecosystems to encourage animal and plant species, and to conserve nature. This category excludes lands administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and held in trust.

The majority of public lands that are under the management of DOI were acquired by the Government during the first century of the Nation’s existence between 1781 and 1867. Stewardship land accounts for 28 percent of the current U.S. landmass.

DOI uses units as a measure to more accurately reflect the major categories of uses of stewardship land. As of September 30, 2010, they have 552 national wildlife refuges, 378 park units, 134 geographic management areas, 67 fish hatcheries, and many other categories. At the end of fiscal year 2010, DOD had 203 thousand acres of public land and 16,140 thousand acres of withdrawn public land, the USDA’s Forest Service managed an estimated 155 national forests, while the DOC had 13 National Marine Sanctuaries, which included near–shore coral reefs and open ocean. This is just a sample of the types of stewardship lands reported.

Stewardship lands are used and managed in accordance with the statutes authorizing their acquisition or directing their use and management. Additional detailed information concerning stewardship land, such as agency stewardship policies, physical units by major categories, and the condition of stewardship land, can be obtained from the financial statements of DOI, DOC, DOD, and USDA.

Heritage assets are Government-owned assets that have one or more of the following characteristics:

The cost of heritage assets often is not determinable or relevant to their significance. Like stewardship land, the Government does not expect to use these assets to meet its obligations. The most relevant information about heritage assets is non-financial. The public entrusts the Government with these assets and holds it accountable for their preservation. Examples of heritage assets include the Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Yosemite National Park. Other examples of heritage assets include the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights preserved by the National Archives. Also included are national monuments/structures such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Washington Monument, as well as the Library of Congress. Many other sites such as battlefields, historic structures, and national historic landmarks are placed in this category, as well.

Many laws and regulations govern the preservation and management of heritage assets. Established policies by individual Federal agencies for heritage assets ensure the proper care and handling of the assets under their control and preserve these assets for the benefit of the American public.

Some heritage assets are used both to remind us of our heritage and for day-to-day operations. These assets are referred to as multi-use heritage assets. One typical example is the White House. The cost of acquisition, betterment or reconstruction of all multi-use heritage assets is capitalized as general property, plant, and equipment and is depreciated.

The Government classifies heritage assets into two broad categories: collection type and non-collection type. Collection type heritage assets include objects gathered and maintained for museum and library collections. Non-collection type heritage assets include national wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, natural landmarks, forests, grasslands, historic places and structures, memorials and monuments, buildings, national cemeteries and archeological sites.

The discussion of the Government’s heritage assets is not all-inclusive. Rather, it highlights significant heritage assets reported by Federal agencies. Please refer to the individual financial statements of the DOC, the DOD, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the websites for the Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/index.html) and the Smithsonian Institution (http://www.si.edu), for additional information on multi-use heritage assets, agency stewardship policies, and physical units by major categories and conditions.


Last Updated:  December 07, 2011