U.S. Territory
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In the United States, a territory is any extent of region under the
sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French ''souverain'', which is ultimately derived from the Latin word ''superānus'', meaning "above". The roles of a sovereign v ...
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
of the
federal government of the United States The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government or U.S. government) is the Federation#Federal governments, national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 U.S. state, state ...
, including all waters (around islands or continental tracts). The United States asserts sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its territory. This extent of
territory A territory is an administrative division, usually an area that is under the jurisdiction of a sovereign state. In most country, countries, a ''territory'' is an organized division of an area that is controlled by a country but is not formally ...
is all the area belonging to, and under the dominion of, the United States federal government (which includes tracts lying at a distance from the
country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social ...

country
) for administrative and other purposes. The United States total territory includes a subset of political divisions.


Territory of the United States

The United States' territory includes any geography under the control of the United States
federal government A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, ...
. Various
region In geography Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and Solar System, planets. The ...

region
s,
district A district is a type of administrative division that, in some countries, is managed by the local government. Across the world, areas known as "districts" vary greatly in size, spanning regions or County, counties, several Municipality, municipal ...

district
s, and
division Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics), the inverse of multiplication *Division algorithm, a method for computing the result of mathematical division Military *Division (military), a formation typically consisting ...
s are under the supervision of the United States federal government. The United States' territory includes clearly defined
geographical area A geographic coordinate system (GCS) is a coordinate system associated with positions on Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. About 29% of Earth's surface is land c ...
and refers to an area of land,
air The atmosphere of Earth is the layer of gas Gas is one of the four fundamental states of matter In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (ph ...

air
, or
sea The sea, connected as the world ocean or simply the ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water which covers approximately 71% of the surface of the Earth.
sea
under jurisdiction of United States federal governmental authority (but is not limited only to these areas). The extent of territory is all the area belonging to, and under the dominion of, the United States of America federal government (which includes
tract Tract may refer to: Geography and real estate * Housing tract, an area of land that is subdivided into smaller individual lots * Land lot In real estate Real estate is property consisting of land and the buildings on it, along with its ...
s lying at a distance from the
country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social ...

country
) for
administrative Administration may refer to: Management of organizations * Management Management (or managing) is the administration of an organization An organization, or organisation (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English; ...
and other purposes.


Constitution of the United States

Under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, a territory is subject to and belongs to the United States (but not necessarily within the national boundaries or any individual state). This includes tracts of land or water not included within the limits of any State and not admitted as a State into the Union. The Constitution of the United States states:


Congress of the United States

Congress possesses power to set territorial governments within the boundaries of the United States, under Article 4, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution. The first exercise of this power was the
Northwest Ordinance The Northwest Ordinance (formally An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio and also known as the Ordinance of 1787), enacted July 13, 1787, was an organic act of the Congress of the Con ...
of 1789. The power of Congress over such territory is exclusive and
universal Universal is the adjective for universe. Universal may also refer to: Companies * NBCUniversal, a media and entertainment company ** Universal Animation Studios, an American Animation studio, and a subsidiary of NBCUniversal ** Universal TV, a te ...
, including the creation of
political division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are generic names for geographical areas into which a particular ...
s, except as delegated to a territory's government by act of Congress.


Supreme Court of the United States

All territory under the control of the federal government is considered part of the "United States" for purposes of law. From 1901 to 1905, the
U.S. Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or Americ ...

U.S. Supreme Court
in a series of opinions known as the
Insular Cases The Insular Cases are a series of opinions by the Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. Supreme Court in 1901, about the status of Territories of the United States, U.S. territories acquired in the Spanish–American War.Lin, Tom C.W.Americans, ...
held that the Constitution extended '' ex proprio vigore'' to the territories. However, the Court in these cases also established the doctrine of territorial incorporation. Under the same, the Constitution only applied fully in incorporated territories such as
Alaska Alaska (; ale, Alax̂sxax̂; ; ems, Alas'kaaq; Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, Yup'ik: ''Alaskaq''; tli, Anáaski) is a U.S. state in the Western United States, on the northwest extremity of the country's West Coast of the United State ...
and
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...
, whereas it only applied partially in the new unincorporated territories of
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
,
Guam Guam (; ch, Guåhan ) is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States in the Micronesia Micronesia (, ; from grc, μικρός ''mikrós'' "small" and ''nêsos'' "island") is a subregion of Oceania, consisting of thousa ...

Guam
and the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...

Philippines
.. A
Supreme Court A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of just ...

Supreme Court
ruling from 1945 stated that the term "United States" can have three different meanings, in different contexts:


United States Department of the Interior

The
United States Department of the Interior The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) is a federal executive department of the U.S. government The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government or U.S. government) is the national government of the U ...
is charged with managing federal affairs within U.S. territory. The Interior Department has a wide range of responsibilities (which include the regulation of territorial governments and the basic stewardship for public lands, et al.). The United States Department of the Interior is not responsible for local government or for civil administration except in the cases of Indian reservations, through the
Bureau of Indian Affairs The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), also known as Indian Affairs (IA), is a United States federal agency within the Department of the Interior The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) is a federal executive department of the Fed ...

Bureau of Indian Affairs
, as well as those territories administered through the
Office of Insular Affairs The Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) is a unit of the United States Department of the Interior The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) is a federal executive department of the . It is responsible for the management and conservati ...
. The exception is the "incorporated and unorganized" (see below) , the legal remnant of the former United States Territory of Hawaii since 1959, in which the local government and civil administration were assigned by the Secretary of the Interior to the
Fish and Wildlife Service The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or FWS) is an agency of the United States Federal Government The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government or U.S. government) is the national government of ...
in 2001.


United States divisions


States, territories, and their subdivisions

The
contiguous United States The contiguous United States or officially the conterminous United States, also known as the Lower 48, consists of the 48 adjoining U.S. states and the Washington, D.C., District of Columbia on the continent of North America. The terms exclude ...
,
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...

Hawaii
, and
Alaska Alaska (; ale, Alax̂sxax̂; ; ems, Alas'kaaq; Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, Yup'ik: ''Alaskaq''; tli, Anáaski) is a U.S. state in the Western United States, on the northwest extremity of the country's West Coast of the United State ...

Alaska
are divided into smaller administrative regions. These are called
counties A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh in certain modern nations. The term is derived from the Old French ...
in 48 of the 50 states,
borough A borough is an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are generic names for ...
s in Alaska and
parish A parish is a territorial entity in many Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ ( ...
es in
Louisiana Louisiana (Standard French Standard French (in French: ''le français standard'', ''le français normé'', ''le français neutre'' eutral Frenchor ''le français international'' nternational French is an unofficial term for a standard ...

Louisiana
. A county can include a number of
cities A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can range from a small number of dwellings grouped to ...

cities
and
towns A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than city, cities, though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably in different parts of the world. Origin and use The word "town" shares a ...

towns
, or just a portion of either type. These counties have varying degrees of political and legal significance. A
township A township is a kind of human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can range from a small number of dwellings g ...
in the United States refers to a small geographic area. The term is used in two ways: a
survey township A survey township, sometimes called a Congressional township or just township, as used by the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Contine ...

survey township
is simply a geographic reference used to define property location for deeds and grants; a
civil township A civil township is a widely used unit of local government in the United States that is subordinate to a county (United States), county, most often in the northern and midwestern parts of the country. The term town is used in New England town, Ne ...
is a unit of local government, originally rural in application. The
District of Columbia ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk within the National Mall The National Mall is a Landscape architecture, landscape ...
and territories are under the direct authority of Congress, although each is allowed home rule. The United States government, rather than individual states or territories, conducts
foreign relations ''Foreign Policy'' is an American news publication, founded in 1970 and focused on global affairs, current events, and domestic and international policy. It produces content daily on its website, and in six print issues annually. ''Foreign Poli ...
under the U.S. Constitution.
Federal enclave In United States law, a federal enclave is a parcel of federal property within a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State ...
s, such as domestic military bases and national parks, are administered directly by the federal government. To varying degrees, the federal government exercises
concurrent jurisdiction Concurrent jurisdiction exists where two or more court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may r ...
with the states where federal land is part of the territory previously granted to a state.


History of United States territory

At times, territories are organized with a separate legislature, under a territorial governor and officers, appointed by the President and approved by the Senate of the United States. A territory has been historically divided into organized territories and unorganized territories. An unorganized territory was generally either unpopulated or set aside for
Native Americans Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants * Native Americans in the United States * Indigenous peoples in Canada, the indigenous p ...
and other
indigenous peoples in the United States Native Americans, also known as American Indians, First Americans, Indigenous Americans and #Terminology differences, other terms, are the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Indigenous peoples of the United States; sometimes including Hawaii ...
by the U.S. federal government, until such time as the growing and restless population encroached into the areas. In recent times, "unorganized" refers to the degree of self-governmental authority exercised by the territory. As a result of several
Supreme Court A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of just ...

Supreme Court
cases after the
Spanish–American War The Spanish–American War (April 21 – August 13, 1898, es, Guerra hispano-estadounidense or ; fil, Digmaang Espanyol-Amerikano) was an armed conflict War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, S ...
, the United States had to determine how to deal with its newly acquired territories, such as the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...

Philippines
,
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
,
Guam Guam (; ch, Guåhan ) is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States in the Micronesia Micronesia (, ; from grc, μικρός ''mikrós'' "small" and ''nêsos'' "island") is a subregion of Oceania, consisting of thousa ...

Guam
,
Wake Island Wake Island ( mh, Ānen Kio, translation=island of the kio flower; also known as Wake Atoll) is a coral Corals are marine invertebrates Marine invertebrates are the invertebrates that live in marine habitats. Invertebrate is a blanket ter ...

Wake Island
, and other areas that were not part of the North American continent and which were not necessarily intended to become a part of the Union of States. As a consequence of the Supreme Court decisions, the United States has since made a distinction between
incorporated Incorporated may refer to: * Incorporated community * Incorporated (Grip Inc. album), ''Incorporated'' (Grip Inc. album), 2004, by Grip Inc. * Incorporated (Legion of Doom album), ''Incorporated'' (Legion of Doom album), 2006 * Incorporated (TV seri ...
and
unincorporated territories Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative divisions overseen by the federal government of the United States, U.S. federal government. The various U.S. territories differ from the U.S. states and Native Americans in the ...
. In essence, an incorporated territory is land that has been irrevocably incorporated within the sovereignty of the United States and to which the full corpus of the U.S. Constitution applies. An unincorporated territory is land held by the United States, and to which
Congress of the United States The United States Congress is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted wi ...
applies selected parts of the constitution. At the present time, the only incorporated U.S. territory is the unorganized (and unpopulated)
Palmyra Atoll Palmyra Atoll (), also referred to as Palmyra Island, is one of the Line Islands, Northern Line Islands (southeast of Kingman Reef and north of Kiribati). It is located almost due south of the Hawaiian Islands, roughly one-third of the way bet ...

Palmyra Atoll
.


Insular areas

The United States currently administers 16 insular areas as territories: *
American Samoa #REDIRECT American Samoa American Samoa ( sm, Amerika Sāmoa, ; also ' or ') is an unincorporated territory of the United States Under United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) ...

American Samoa
*
Guam Guam (; ch, Guåhan ) is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States in the Micronesia Micronesia (, ; from grc, μικρός ''mikrós'' "small" and ''nêsos'' "island") is a subregion of Oceania, consisting of thousa ...

Guam
*
Northern Mariana Islands The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI; ch, Sankattan Siha Na Islas Mariånas; cal, Commonwealth Téél Falúw kka Efáng llól Marianas), is an unincorporated territories of the Unit ...

Northern Mariana Islands
*
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
*
United States Virgin Islands The United States Virgin Islands, officially the Virgin Islands of the United States, are a group of Caribbean The Caribbean (, ; es, Caribe; french: Caraïbes; ht, Karayib; also gcf, label=Antillean Creole Antillean Creole (Antillean ...
* **''
Bajo Nuevo Bank Bajo Nuevo Bank, also known as the Petrel Islands ( es, Bajo Nuevo, Islas Petrel), is a small, uninhabited reef with some small grass-covered islets, located in the western Caribbean Sea at , with a lighthouse on Low Cay at . The closest neighb ...
'' **
Baker Island Baker Island (previously New Nantucket) is an uninhabited atoll An atoll (), sometimes known as a coral atoll, is a ring-shaped coral reef A coral reef is an underwater ecosystems, ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals. Ree ...

Baker Island
**
Howland Island Howland Island () is an uninhabited coral island A coral island is a type of island formed from coral detritus and associated organic material. It occurs in tropical and sub-tropical areas, typically as part of a coral reef which has grown to ...

Howland Island
**
Jarvis Island Jarvis Island (; formerly known as Bunker Island or Bunker's Shoal) is an uninhabited coral island located in the South Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and the Cook Islands. It is an Territories of the United States#Unincorporated u ...

Jarvis Island
**
Johnston Atoll Johnston Atoll is an unincorporated territory Under United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North Ame ...

Johnston Atoll
**
Kingman Reef Kingman Reef is a largely submerged, uninhabited, triangle-shaped reef A reef is a ridge or shoal A tidal sandbar connecting the islands of Waya and Wayasewa of the Yasawa Islands, Fiji ">Fiji.html" ;"title="Yasawa Islands, Fiji">Y ...

Kingman Reef
**
Midway Islands Midway Atoll (colloquialism, colloquial: Midway Islands; haw, Kauihelani, translation=the backbone of heaven; haw, Pihemanu, translation=the loud din of birds, label=none) is a atoll in the North Pacific Ocean. Midway Atoll is an insular ...

Midway Islands
**
Navassa Island Navassa Island (; french: l'île de la Navasse; also ''La Navasse'', ''La Navase''; ht, Lanavaz) is a small uninhabited island in the Caribbean Sea The Caribbean Sea ( es, Mar Caribe; french: Mer des Caraïbes; ht, Lamè Karayib; jam, Kiar ...

Navassa Island
**
Palmyra Atoll Palmyra Atoll (), also referred to as Palmyra Island, is one of the Line Islands, Northern Line Islands (southeast of Kingman Reef and north of Kiribati). It is located almost due south of the Hawaiian Islands, roughly one-third of the way bet ...

Palmyra Atoll
**''
Serranilla Bank Serranilla Bank ( es, Isla Serranilla, Banco Serranilla and ''Placer de la Serranilla'') is a partially submerged reef, with small uninhabited islets, in the western Caribbean Sea. It is situated about northeast of Punta Gorda, Nicaragua, Punt ...
'' **
Wake Island Wake Island ( mh, Ānen Kio, translation=island of the kio flower; also known as Wake Atoll) is a coral Corals are marine invertebrates Marine invertebrates are the invertebrates that live in marine habitats. Invertebrate is a blanket ter ...

Wake Island
:The italicized islands are part of a territory dispute with
Colombia Colombia ( , ; ), officially the Republic of Colombia, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by conv ...

Colombia
and are not included in the ISO designation of the USMOI. Palmyra Atoll is the only ''incorporated territory'' remaining, and having no government it is also ''unorganized''. The remaining are
unincorporated territories of the United States Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as ma ...
. Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands are styled as commonwealths.


Dependent areas

Several islands in the
Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. ...

Pacific Ocean
and
Caribbean Sea The Caribbean Sea ( es, Mar Caribe; french: Mer des Caraïbes; ht, Lamè Karayib; jam, Kiaribiyan Sii; nl, Caraïbische Zee; pap, Laman Karibe) is an Americas, American Mediterranean sea (oceanography), mediterranean sea of the Atlantic Ocean ...
are
dependent territories A dependent territory, dependent area, or dependency (sometimes referred as an external territory) is a territory A territory is an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, ...
of the United States. The
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base Guantanamo Bay Naval Base ( es, Base Naval de la Bahía de Guantánamo), officially known as Naval Station Guantanamo Bay or NSGB, (also called GTMO, pronounced Gitmo as an acronym, by the U.S. military) is a United States military base locate ...
, Guantanamo Bay, notionally under the sovereignty of
Cuba Cuba ( , ), officially the Republic of Cuba ( es, República de Cuba, links=no ), is a country comprising the island of Cuba, as well as Isla de la Juventud Isla de la Juventud (; en, Isle of Youth) is the second-largest Cuban islan ...

Cuba
, is administered by the United States under a perpetual lease, much as the Panama Canal Zone used to be before the signing of the
Torrijos–Carter Treaties The Torrijos–Carter Treaties ( es, Tratados Torrijos-Carter) are two treaty, treaties signed by the United States and Panama in Washington, D.C., on September 7, 1977, which superseded the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty of 1903. The treaties guara ...
. Only mutual agreement or U.S. abandonment of the area can terminate the lease. From July 8, 1947, until October 1, 1994, the United States administered the
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) was a United Nations trust territory United Nations trust territories were the successors of the remaining League of Nations mandates and came into being when the League of Nations ceased to ...
, but the Trust ceased to exist when the last member state of Palau gained its independence to become the
Republic of Palau Palau (), officially the Republic of Palau ( pau, Beluu er a Belau) and historically ''Belau'', ''Palaos'' or ''Pelew'', is an island country in the western Pacific Ocean, Pacific. The nation has approximately 340 islands and connects the ...
. The
Panama canal The Panama Canal ( es, Canal de Panamá, link=no) is an artificial waterway in Panama Panama ( , ; es, link=no, Panamá ), officially the Republic of Panama ( es, República de Panamá), is a List of transcontinental countries#Nor ...

Panama canal
, and the
Canal Zone The Panama Canal Zone ( es, Zona del Canal de Panamá), also simply known as the Canal Zone, was an unincorporated territory Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative division Administrative division, adminis ...

Canal Zone
surrounding it, was territory administered by the United States until 1999, when control was relinquished to Panama. The United States has made no territorial claim in Antarctica but has reserved the right to do so. American research stations in Antarctica—Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, McMurdo Station, and Palmer Station—are under U.S. jurisdiction but are held without sovereignty per the Antarctic Treaty System, Antarctic Treaty. The three Freely Associated States of Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the
Republic of Palau Palau (), officially the Republic of Palau ( pau, Beluu er a Belau) and historically ''Belau'', ''Palaos'' or ''Pelew'', is an island country in the western Pacific Ocean, Pacific. The nation has approximately 340 islands and connects the ...
are not under U.S. sovereignty, but each participates in federal programs under a Compact of Free Association.


Maritime territory of the United States

The government of the United States of America has claims to the oceans in accord with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which delineates a zone of territory adjacent to territorial lands and seas. United States protects this Marine (ocean), marine environment, though not interfering with other lawful Baseline (sea), uses of this zone. The United States' jurisdiction has been established on vessels, ships, and artificial islands (along with other marine structures). In 1983 President Ronald Reagan, through Proclamation No. 5030, claimed a 200-mile exclusive economic zone. In December 1988, President Reagan, through Proclamation No. 5928, extended U.S. territorial waters from three nautical miles to twelve nautical miles for national security purposes. However a legal opinion from the Justice Department questioned the President's constitutional authority to extend sovereignty as Congress has the power to make laws concerning the territory belonging to the United States under the U.S. Constitution. In any event, Congress needs to make laws defining if the extended waters, including oil and mineral rights, are under state or federal control. The primary enforcer of maritime law is the United States Coast Guard, U.S. Coast Guard. Federal and state governments share economic and regulatory jurisdiction over the waters owned by the country. (See tidelands.)


International law

The United States is not restricted from making laws governing its own territory by international law. United States territory can include occupied territory, which is a geographic area that claims sovereignty, but is being Force (law), forcibly wiktionary:subjugate, subjugated to the authority of the United States of America. United States territory can also include disputed territory, which is a geographic area claimed by the United States of America and one (or more) rival governments. Under the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, United States territory can include areas occupied by and controlled by the United States Armed Forces. When de facto military control is maintained and exercised, occupation (and thus possession) extends to that territory. Military personnel in control of the territory have a responsibility to provide for the basic needs of individuals under their control (which includes food, clothing, shelter, medical attention, law maintenance, and social order). To prevent systematic abuse of puppet governments by the occupation forces, they must enforce laws that were in place in the territory prior to the occupation.


Customs territories

The fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico form the main customs territory of the United States. Special rules apply to Foreign trade zones of the United States, foreign trade zones in these areas. Separate customs territory, customs territories are formed by American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Other areas

U.S. sovereignty includes the airspace over its land and territorial waters. No international agreement exists on the vertical limit that separates this from outer space, which is international. Federal jurisdiction includes federal enclaves like national parks and domestic military bases, even though these are located in the territory of a state. Host states exercise
concurrent jurisdiction Concurrent jurisdiction exists where two or more court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may r ...
to some degree. The United States exercises extraterritoriality on military bases, military installations, American embassy, embassies and consulates located in foreign countries, and research centers and Antarctic field camps, field camps in Antarctica. Despite exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction, these overseas locations remain under the sovereignty of the host countries (except Antarctica, where there is no host country). Because they are not part of any state, extraterritorial jurisdiction is federal, with Congress's plenary power under Article Four of the United States Constitution#Clause 2: Property Clause, Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, U.S. Constitution. The federal government also exercises property ownership, but not sovereignty over land in various foreign countries. Examples include the ''John F. Kennedy Memorial'' built at Runnymede in England, and around Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, France.


History of U.S. federal lands

The Land Ordinance of 1785 and the
Northwest Ordinance The Northwest Ordinance (formally An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio and also known as the Ordinance of 1787), enacted July 13, 1787, was an organic act of the Congress of the Con ...
of 1787 provided for the survey and settlement of the lands that the original 13 colonies ceded to the federal government after the American War of Independence, American Revolution. As additional lands were acquired by the United States from Spain, France and other countries, the United States Congress directed that they be explored, surveyed, and made available for settlement. During the Revolutionary War, military bounty land was promised to soldiers who fought for the colonies. After the war, the Treaty of Paris (1783), Treaty of Paris of 1783, signed by the United States, the UK, France, and Spain, ceded territory to the United States. In the 1780s, other states relinquished their own claims to land in modern-day Ohio. By this time, the United States needed revenue to function.Vernon Carstensen, "Patterns on the American Land." ''Journal of Federalism,'' Fall 1987, Vol. 18 Issue 4, pp 31–39 Land was sold so that the government would have money to survive. In order to sell the land, surveys needed to be conducted. The Land Ordinance of 1785 instructed a geographer to oversee this work as undertaken by a group of surveyors. The first years of surveying were completed by trial and error; once the territory of Ohio had been surveyed, a modern public land survey system had been developed. In 1812, Congress established the General Land Office as part of the United States Department of the Treasury, Department of the Treasury to oversee the disposition of these federal lands.A History of the Rectangular Survey System by C. Albert White, 1983, Pub: Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management: For sale by G.P.O. By the early 1800s, promised bounty land claims were finally fulfilled. In the 19th century, other bounty land and homestead laws were enacted to dispose of federal land. Several different types of patents existed. These include cash entry, credit, homestead, Indian, military warrants, mineral certificates, private land claims, railroads, state selections, swamps, town sites, and town lots. A system of local land offices spread throughout the territories, patenting land that was surveyed via the corresponding Surveyor General of the Northwest Territory, Office of the Surveyor General of a particular territory. This pattern gradually spread across the entire United States. The laws that spurred this system with the exception of the General Mining Law of 1872 and the Desert Land Act of 1877 have since been repealed or superseded. In the early 20th century, Congress took additional steps toward recognizing the value of the assets on public lands and directed the Executive Branch to manage activities on the remaining public lands. The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 allowed leasing, exploration, and production of selected commodities, such as coal, Petroleum, oil, Natural gas, gas, and sodium to take place on public lands. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 established the United States Grazing Service to Rangeland management, manage the public rangelands by establishment of advisory boards that set grazing fees. The Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands, Oregon and California Revested Lands Sustained Yield Management Act of 1937, commonly referred as the O&C Act, required sustained yield management of the timberlands in western Oregon. Currently, federal lands are about 640 million acres, about 28% of the total U.S. land area of 2.27 billion acres.Lipton, Eric, and Clifford Krauss
Giving Reins to the States Over Drilling
''New York Times'', August 24, 2012.
Carol Hardy Vincent, Carla N. Argueta, & Laura A. Hanson
Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data
Congress Research Service (March 3, 2017).


See also

* Territories of the United States * Waters of the United States


References


Notes

* * * *


External links


USGS map of the territorial acquisitions of the U.S.
{{DEFAULTSORT:Territories Political divisions of the United States Federal government of the United States Colonialism