Land, Water, Woods, Wildlife School Trust Lands Is it “cash for kids” or “cash ‘em out?” DNR management of 2.5 million acres of public lands under fire.
Our Wildlife Photo by Jim Williams
Can We Afford (to educate) Our Kids?Must We Log and Mine Everything to do so?
Do Our Kids have to choose? School Trust Lands: Cash ‘em out – or Cash ‘em in?
K-12 School Funding Facts • $7 billion annual funding from state (+more local $$) • $0.7 billion value of School Trust Account • $0.03 billion distribution annually to schools • $2.5 billion estimated “liquidation sale” value of all Trust Fund Lands = 4 months expenses to our schools, once. • $2.5 billion school funding “shift” cumulative, in past two budget cycles.
School Trust Land Revenues • Varies widely, based on timber and mineral markets, randomness of iron pit development, and DNR management expenses. • Net revenues to the Trust Account in recent decades have varied from zero, to over $30 million last year. • Over time, 85% of net revenues have come from mining.
What’s the Problem? • Schools are scrambling for funds. • (Legislators are feeling guilty over shifted $$?) • Trust Land management can be improved. • A focus on Trust Lands diverts attention from “school shift” phony budget balancing? • Extended Rotation Forestry – co$t vs benefit? • Who to blame!? (It is an election year) • Bring on the pitch and feathers!
What are the legitimate problems? • No revenue potential: due to location • No revenue potential: swamp lands • Norevenue potential: protective designation, especially BWCA and SNAs. • Low net revenues from timber: poor market, mandated minimum sales volume, fire protection charges, high DNR overhead • Lack of compensation for public recreational access
Proposed SolutionsThe Good, The Bad, and the Ugly • Good: Kids (schools) need cash to pay expenses: get money in the Trust Account!
Proposed SolutionsThe Good, The Bad, and the Ugly • Bad: Set up a legislatively-dominated agency to manage School Trust Lands exclusively for revenue generation. • HF 2244/SF 1889 (O’Driscoll/Kruse) • Extra layer of government • More complicated than it appears • Pea under the mattress – drastic solution!
Proposed SolutionsThe Good, The Bad, and the Ugly • Ugly: Trade protected lands (in the BWCA) for lands that “we can mine, log and lease the hell out of.” (Rep. David Dill, March 6, 2012 – Environment Committee hearing.)
Proposed SolutionsThe Good, The Bad, and the Ugly • Good: Compensate the Trust Account for the Value of the Trust Obligation – manage the land for sustainable multiple benefits. • Rep. Persell: $100,000,000 bonding bill • Sierra Club proposal to Congress: pay cash for BWCA Trust lands.
Proposed SolutionsThe Good, The Bad, and the Ugly • Bad: BWCA sale/land swap • Combination of “good” (cash) and “ugly” (Dill plan) • 86,000 acres in BWCA for $100 million + 35,000 acres of National Forest Land outside the BWCA • HF 2207/SF 1857 (McFarlane/Carlson)
Proposed SolutionsThe Good, The Bad, and the Ugly • HF 1486 (Ditrich) Limit charges for fire protection • Collect fees on hunting and fishing licenses to pay for public access to Trust Lands (Utah) • $.001 sales tax dedication to pay the Trust over decades to extinguish the obligation. • Your ideas?
In the end, we must do right by our kids, both with an education and a natural inheritance!