Letter: Trade trust lands to benefit Utah schools

First Published      Last Updated May 16 2017 06:00 am

An article in The Tribune paraphrases the views of a San Juan County rancher claiming "he and other monument critics fear restrictions ... will thwart economic development, impede public access and undermine local schools by disrupting possible revenue sources." As a public school parent and arts educator in Salt Lake City, I can't speak to some of his concerns, but I can speak to assumptions about schools.

All of Utah's public schools receive an annual allotment from the School Land Trust fund. While trust lands are spread throughout Utah, those captured within Bears Ears National Monument are not usable (or profitable). The same was true of school trust lands captured in Grand Staircase-Escalante in the late '90s. During that controversial designation, Utah leadership pursued a trust lands exchange which allowed investment and development on suitable land with over $300 million dollars in returns. The investments from that exchange are the single largest contributor to the current trust lands fund from which all public schools benefit.

Even if Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke advocates a reduction or reversal of Bears Ears, we all know a legal battle would be ahead. In the interim, lands should be traded to get the most for Utah's public school children.

Ashley Anderson

Salt Lake City