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Our Children Deserve Better Return On State Land Investment

Rep. Kirk Stensrud: "Disappointingly, the state has not been living up to its fiduciary responsibility to maintain the integrity of this trust fund for our children."

To the editor,

I was among the many Minnesotans who were recently alarmed to learn 2.5
million acres of land set aside to generate revenue for our children has been largely underperforming over the years.

This trust land was designated to generate revenue for children in our public schools way back when Minnesota entered statehood in 1858. The DNR currently is charged with managing these lands to secure the maximum long-term economic return for the benefit of our public schools.

Disappointingly, the state has not been living up to its fiduciary responsibility to maintain the integrity of this trust fund for our children. One legislator indicated that, while income from forestry on the lands during the last two years dropped, administrative fees had risen by 326 percent.

How is this acceptable?

We can and must do better. This not a partisan issue; it is about doing the right thing in the future. Better management practices can provide additional funding for our children in today’s tight economy without raising taxes.

Fortunately, a bipartisan group of legislators from both legislative bodies has unveiled a plan to fix this problem. The proposal would create a panel of citizens and legislators that would oversee the school trust lands in the state. This removes the lands from the jurisdiction of the DNR, which was responsible for this poor performance.

The goal is to help us generate more annual income for state school districts from timber and mineral sales and leases. The key is to responsibly tap into the resources these acres provide to generate additional revenue while upholding the integrity of our environment.

Minnesota is not alone in facing issues with trust lands; a lack of transparency, conflicts of interest and general underwhelming performance has bogged other states, too. We are studying Utah, which has increased revenue generated by a similar trust fund from $18 million to $1.3 billion the last 16 years.

We owe it to our children and the taxpayers to do a better job of productively managing our resources.

Sincerely,
Rep. Kirk Stensrud

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