by Dennis Dalman
Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) was elated when Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a school-trust land bill April 28.
O’Driscoll was one of the key authors of the bill. He called the governor’s signing of the bill good news for education in Minnesota.
The law will create a director who will be in charge of long-term planning for management of school-trust lands. There are 2.5-million acres of such land in the state, most of them in northeastern Minnesota. Since the state’s founding, school-trust lands have been set aside for the benefit of schools throughout Minnesota, as they have in other states.
Revenue generated on such lands, through forestry operations for example, can then be divided up and used for schools statewide. Those lands in Minnesota have been managed by the Department of Natural Resources. However, O’Driscoll and others, including some Democrats, maintain the DNR did not manage those lands pro-actively enough. More income for schools could be generated, they argued, if those lands are managed for more intensive revenue-generating operations.
The new law gives authority for creating a 12-member commission, comprised of legislators from both parties, that will advise the director on how best to derive income from those lands. The commission will replace the current Permanent School Fund Advisory Committee, which distributes school-trust land revenues currently. The commission will advise the director on how best to manage the lands.
The new changes will take place in 2013. The bill has been opposed by many who claim an expansion of revenue-generating operations will include types of mining that can lead to serious forms of environmental pollution.