School Trust Fund Lands



School Trust Lands

Within the BWCAW

Status: September 2012

The State of Minnesota and the USDA Forest Service are working together on a mutually beneficial strategy to transfer ownership of approximately 86,000 acres of currently designated school trust lands, located within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) on the Superior National Forest, to federal ownership as part of a combined purchase and land exchange agreement.

The intent of this strategy is to allow the State to obtain land that is not limited by Wilderness designation and which may be managed to meet the objectives for school trust lands to generate revenue for the maintenance of public schools in Minnesota.  At the same time, the Forest Service is interested in opportunities to consolidate ownership and places a priority on acquiring non-federal lands within the BWCAW.

Beginning in 2010, the Minnesota Legislature’s Permanent School Trust Fund Advisory Committee appointed a working group comprised of the Forest Service, the State of Minnesota, and interested stakeholders including representatives of: the school trust, environmental concerns, timber industry, mining interests, and local government officials.  The working group collaborated through 2011 to identify parcels of national forest lands, located outside of the BWCAW, on the Superior National Forest as candidates for some combination of land exchange/acquisition.  The main Forest Service criteria was to select isolated, scattered federal ownership parcels in areas of predominately State ownership to achieve ownership patterns that lower resource management costs.  The following criteria also applied: 

  1. Retain federal land needed to protect and manage administratively or Congressionally designated, unique, proposed, or recommended areas;
  2. Avoid splitting federal surface from federal mineral estates particularly in areas of potential mineral development;
  3. Avoid high profile or controversial areas that would likely cause conflict if proposed;
  4. Avoid parcels identified as candidates in other proposed land exchange projects.

The information on the maps shown below was presented to the Advisory Committee on December 9, 2011.  The maps identify federal land candidates considered for potential exchange at this point in time.  

On April 27, 2012 the Governor of Minnesota signed an omnibus land bill that includes language to “expedite” a land exchange between the federal government and the State of Minnesota.  It also includes a provision for the State to sell any “surplus lands” in the BWCAW to the United States Government. 

In a letter dated August 22, 2012, the DNR formally proposed the exchange of school trust lands for USFS lands located within Superior National Forest. 

The State and the Forest Service are collaborating on the next step:  a feasibility analysis of the proposal.  A feasibility analysis documents how an exchange proposal supports the standards and guidelines of the Superior National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan by conducting a preliminary review that addresses implications on threatened and endangered species, known cultural and historic resources, tribal issues, wetlands and floodplains, hazardous materials, and management efficiency associated with the proposal. 

If the feasibility analysis supports the exchange, the Forest Service may move forward by beginning an environmental analysis pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Such environmental analysis would include public scoping and an opportunity for public review and appeal. 

Below is a key map identifying detailed maps of candidate parcels.  At this time, the maps only represent the information provided to the Minnesota Legislature’s Permanent School Trust Advisory Committee in December 2011 and do not represent a proposed Forest Service project.   Determine which map you wish to see and click on the corresponding link below the map for the map of parcels in that section. 

Guide Map for BWCAW land exchange


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 School Trust Lands in the BWCAW