<== Site of the Week for 2006-03-15 ==>
Utah Trust Lands
Utah Trust Lands has information on the administration of trust lands throughout the State of Utah.
In the settling of the West, the U.S. Government set aside parcels of land for educational purposes. The trust land policy was designed for states in the Great Plains where there is not dramatic differences in the landscape. The government simply selected a patchwork of land distributed throughout the states. Schools could use the land for educational purposes or could lease the land to raise funds for education. The policy worked very well in the plains were most of the land has pretty much the same economic value.
The distribution of trust lands in the Rocky Mountain States has always been problematic. The patchwork of trust lands was established without an inventory of what was on the land.
This is really not that surprising. Of the 57 million square miles of land on the earth. Only 12 million are arable. Most arabable land is concentrated in large flat river plains. The expectation that high mountain areas will have the same distribution of arable lands as delta areas is ludicrous.
Only a very small portion of Utah is arable. In many counties, the lands set aside in trust have little economic value. For example, a patch of land on the Great Salt Flats really doesn't lend itself to much. Other sections of trust lands fell in the middle of stunningly beautiful wilderness. Trying to develop a piece of Trust land that sits in the middle of a Wilderness area is both expensive and changes the characteristic of the land around it.
The trust lands has always been a problem for school districts. Some school districts had trust lands worth a great deal. These districts, of course, could provide more for their students than districts whose trust lands fell on lands that did not have a great deal of value.
Somewhere between the establishment of trust lands and modern times, the world realized that the undeveloped lands in Utah was among the greatest treasures bestowed on the United States of America. The "wastelands" of Utah are one of the greatest treasures of the United States.
Today, we find Utah's trust lands sitting squarely in the middle of the debate of whether or not the United States should develop the land in Utah or if we should preserve the natural treasures of the state. Unfortunately, you can't have wilderness and develop it too.
The primary goal of the trust lands is to raise funds for education. In recent years, those favoring aggressive development.
The result is that the trustland debate is a hot bed of political fighting between forces wanting to develop and those wanting to preserve wilderness. The trust lands give the developers a handy tool to claim moral self-righteousness, as they can claim all development to be an altruistic sacrafice for the children.
There have been a few land swaps to try and create a better distribution of trustlands. Regardless, the trustland debate will continue to be a smoldering cauldron of political fighting between developers and conservationists.
Don't worry, the conservationists will lose. It is still up in the air how fast they will lose. I hope they lose slowly. Utah power brokers want them to lose quickly.