State Trust Lands
There are approximately 38.5 million surface acres of state trust land in the Intermountain West, located in both rural and urban areas. The management of these lands is governed by a fiduciary trust responsibility. Because of the vast state trust land holdings throughout the West, their role in shaping growth and development patterns and on the integrity of large-scale, ecologically intact landscapes is significant.
State trust lands are a unique category of lands granted by the federal government to states upon entering the Union to support vital public institutions, such as schools. The square mile sections were granted in a regular pattern, where available, in each state with the direction that the proceeds from the sale of the lands be used to generate revenue for public education and other essential institutions. Many states divested themselves of these lands quickly without leaving a lasting benefit to the schools. As a result, states admitted to the Union later had tighter restrictions placed on their state trust land grants to ensure that the lands would be available to support the beneficiaries in perpetuity.
Our initial involvement with research and analysis on state trust lands in the West came through our joint venture partnership with Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, now known as Western Lands and Communities. WLC seeks to assist state trust land managers in meeting their fiduciary duty in the changing West by broadening the range of land-use information, tools, and policy options available for the long-term, sustainable management of state trust lands. The project's goal is to enhance the value of the trust for its beneficiaries by fostering better planning and implementation of residential and commercial development on state trust lands and by increasing the amount of state trust land in conservation use. Click here to view Western Lands and Communities state trust land webpage.
Check out our newly created website dedicated to State Trust Land issues and policies at www.statetrustlands.org. This Western Lands and Communities web-based informational resource was created to support the exchange of ideas surrounding the management of state trust lands. The website acts as a clearinghouse and is a collaborative effort between nonprofit land policy organizations and state trust land management agencies to provide information, best practices, and legal resources about this unique category of lands that benefit public institutions. Click here to check out the State Trust Lands website today.
In 2008 Sonoran Institute's Sun Corridor Legacy Program joined the state trust land efforts. The program focuses on informing Arizona's citizens and legislators on the complex issue of state trust land. Its ultimate goal is to influence policy reform in Arizona. The program published a series of five reports on Arizona's state trust land which can be viewed on the program's webpage. Click here to view the Sun Corridor's State Trust Land webpage.
With funding from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and in collaboration with conservation groups, municipalities, and counties across Arizona, the Sonoran Institute has assembled state trust lands suitable for conservation into a single database. The resulting profiles focus on conservation values. The conservation profiles included here have been identified by stakeholders around the state as suitable for conservation for various reasons: preservation of wildlife corridors; archeological and historical gems; preservation of ancient cultures; and large landscape conservation to name a few. The four-page conservation profiles are available to inform policy makers, conservation advocates, land managers, and neighbors who love their special corner of Arizona and want to make the case for inclusion in conservation efforts. Click here to see the profiles today.
State Trust Lands Resources
The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is a major partner of the Sonoran Institute in our work shaping the future of the West. The Lincoln Institute website is also a major resource for State Trust Land policy as well. Click here to view the Lincoln Institute website.