At statehood, Utah was granted land for the support of our schools and educational institutions since federal land could not be taxed. Currently, 69 percent of our state land is untaxed federal domain or American Indian reservations. Since the formation of Arches National Park 75 years ago, school land has been captured in restrictive federal designations without compensation to our schools. Additional lands have been caught within subsequent creations of national forests, other national parks, and most recently, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Almost half a million acres of school lands are currently captured and do not produce revenue for our schools.
This injustice to our students and taxpayers is about to be rectified. Gov. Leav-itt and the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration negotiated a land exchange with Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt - the largest exchange in the history of our country. The schools will receive $50 million immediately as well as coal lands, coal bed methane fields and other mineral and surface properties that will generate revenue for our schools. The funds will be invested prudently by our state Treasurer Ed Alter to generate interest and dividends for each new generation of students.Rep. Hansen, with the support of Reps. Cannon and Cook, moved the exchange legislation through the House of Representatives in an amazing 43 days. Then Sens. Hatch and Bennett led the bill through the full Senate committee with no amendments and unanimous support. The homestretch with a full Senate vote this session is in sight, and the White House has already pledged support.
On behalf of our schools, I would like to express my deep gratitude to our entire delegation, our governor and Secretary Babbitt for the vision and courage they have shown in resolving this issue.
Scott W. Bean
State superintendent of public instruction
Salt Lake City