To the editor:
Some time ago, the Deseret News ran an article titled "Land sales help schools" and "Trust lands sold for 225% profit." The article would lead one to believe that the selling of our schools' trust lands is a good deal.The article indicated that the sale of 80 acres of land netted the state 225 percent of profit. Now really, did it?
The sale gross amount was $65,000, at 2 percent over prime rate with 10 percent down and 20 years to pay. I can easily understand why people are so willing to buy our state land.
The administrators managing our state lands, within the bounds of the law, are frittering away the school lands for a paltry pittance.
When Utah was admitted into the union in 1896, the Enabling Act assured Utah schools that all monies collected from sections 2-16-32 and 36 of every township comprising 36 sections be paid directly into the State School Trust Land.
This meant that when Utah became a state, more than 7 million acres was set aside as state school trust lands referred to as school sections.
Utah now owns less than 3,749,672 surface acres, and less than 4,687,392 mineral acres. Some 300,000 acres of trust lands are held hostage in national parks, Indian reservations, military ranges, wildlife refuges, etc. These lands pay nothing for those school sections they hold hostage.
With those areas identified to become wilderness areas, the state of Utah will lose more than $38 million through oil, gas and geothermal leases.
When South Dakota became a state, it was given 3.5 million acres of school trust lands. It has $95 million in a trust fund, collects annually $13,470,547. Wyoming received 4 million acres, still holds 3,646,000, has a trust fund of $636,281,488 which generates interest of $80,554,085 annually. Utah received 7 million acres but now owns only 3,749,672 acres, has a trust fund of $22,881,722 which generates interest of only $8,521,727.
Take the selling of our trust lands away from those who now manage them and require our Legislature to approve any sale. The gate must be closed, the loophole plugged.
Paul L. Young
Western Association of Land Users