In the past two years, Utah's state land managers have completed 17 competitive sales of school trust land, averaging 200 percent of their appraised value, says an official of the Utah Division of State Lands and Forestry.

The sales earned nearly $853,000 for the State School Trust, which provides money for public education, said Kevin Carter, trust and asset manager for the division."We've been able to do this since the division and board of State Lands and Forestry changed the process by which we sell school trust lands," Carter said. "We brought on a marketing specialist and have taken a very aggressive approach to marketing lands whose value can best be realized by selling them."

He called the sales "very profitable" for the school trust fund, and therefore for the state's taxpayers.

The way the land sales are conducted, a tract is offered by means of competitive bidding by the public, after the division determines that sale of the land is the best way to realize its value to the school trust. The division provides contract financing when appropriate, requiring 10 percent down and the prime rate of interest plus 2 percent on the balance, which is to be paid off in 20 annual payments.

"We often earn more money for the trust by financing the sale ourselves than we would by depositing the money with the state treasurer," Carter said. "Contract sales are also an added incentive for many buyers.

Successful land sales since 1988 were for private recreational use, gold mining and the establishment of an Indian cultural center. They have taken place in San Juan, Sevier, Grand, Piute, Box Elder, Iron, Washington, Grand, Garfield and Juab counties.

In San Juan County, the Native American Peoples Historic Foundation bid successfully for 540 acres of state land, where it plans to build a Native American family history repository.

In Piute and Sevier counties, private land was listed for about $50 an acre near some tracts the state wanted to sell. But the division, by developing a competitive market, was able to realize $150 an acres for its land, he said.