Lawmakers debate DNR’s control of school trust lands

/ 9 March 2012 / jennifer

Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio, March 9, 2012 –

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Legislators are debating whether to remove control of school trust lands from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Income from logging and mining on the more than 2 million acres supports public education.

But critics say the DNR has divided loyalties, and has not managed the land to maximize income for the trust.

St. Louis County Land Commissioner Bob Krepps told fellow members of the Permanent School Fund Advisory Committee that mining lands produce excellent returns on expenses.

“I challenge you to find a business that can hold their expenses at 6 percent,” Krepps said. “[The] DNR did that this year in the Minerals Management Account.”

John Herman, an attorney and environmental advocate, is a member of the Permanent School Fund Adivsory Committee. He said it makes sense to set up a group with sole responsibility for trust lands.

“Having an independent actor in this process that actually spends full time on it is a good way to go,” Herman said.

Proposed legislation would set up a new board, appointed by the governor, which would give undivided attention to beneficiaries of the school trust lands. The board could pay the DNR to manage the lands.