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 Exhibits: The Lands: State Lands


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    State Trust Lands
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Click to see land ownership map; light blue indicates state lands

Click to see land ownership map; light blue indicates state lands
Courtesy Public Lands Interpretive Association

Twenty-three states in the West together manage 447 million acres of state trust lands. Of these 447 million acres, 146 million are surface, 220 million are mineral, and 81 million are submerged. In comparison, the U.S. Forest Service manages 191 million acres, the Bureau of Land Management (an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior) manages 262 million acres, the National Park Service manages 83.6 million acres (4.3 million are under private ownership), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages 93 million acres.

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    Laws on the Lands
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Bobcats frequent the desert lands of New Mexico, but glimpsing one in the wild is rare

Bobcats frequent the desert lands of New Mexico, but glimpsing one in the wild is rare
Courtesy New Mexico State Office

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An oil well near Carlsbad, NM

An oil well near Carlsbad, NM
Courtesy BLM

The concept of state trust lands originated with the General Land Ordinance of 1785, even before the U.S. constitution was adopted. State trust lands, at the time, were termed school land policy. After the Virginia land cession in 1783, Congress announced two formulas for governing the lands. These formulas included the General Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. The first initiated the rectangular survey and sale of western lands, as well as the designation of section 16 in each township to provide for public school maintenance. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 generated a system for territorial governance and the journey toward statehood.

The designation of section 16 lands in each township supports schools and institutions through the combination of revenues generated off the lands, and the permanent funds these revenues produced. The management of state trust land is approached and viewed as a trust with the goal of preserving the product while producing revenues. Traditionally, revenues are generated through leases for grazing, timber, oil, gas, and hunting. Alternative resources also benefit the trust, beyond these traditional uses. According to the Western States Land Commissioners Association, permanent funds produced by twenty-three western states currently total $41 billion. From this total, $1.999 billion was distributed to Beneficiaries, which includes income from permanent fund investments.

For more information , click on the link below or read State Trust Lands: History, Management, and Sustainable Use, by Jon Souder and Sally K. Fairfax.

Links for More Information

  Part Two--


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