Support a Bears Ears Trust Land Exchange to help our Schools!

2017-04-10T08:58:22-06:00April 10th, 2017|Action of the Day|0 Comments
Bears Ears is a hot topic with plenty of variables: environmental stewardship, the rights of state’s and sovereign tribes, and tourism dollars. One issue that’s non-partisan and therefore, overlooked, are School Land Trusts.

Calling your members of congress (both Senators plus your District Representative) about this issue may be less controversial but more useful!

What are Trust Lands? 
Trust Lands are scattered throughout Utah and any income from development & investment is placed in a fund that all schools draw from annually. If you have a child in public school, or if you attended public school in Utah, an annual amount was given (no matter the district) to be used for that school’s greatest academic need. Currently, School Community Councils (SCCs) are the bodies that determine what they money is used for.

What do these lands have to do with the Bears Ears Monument Designation?
In the 1990s, Grand Staircase was designated and the GOP wasn’t happy for many reasons but one small reason was that Trust Lands were captured within the monument. The same is happening with Bears Ears. There are a handful of lands in the monument boundaries that would no longer be considered useable by the state.

But here’s the thing: in both Grand Staircase and Bears Ears these Trust Lands aren’t usable.

Environmentally sensitive land is hard to develop and/or invest. So, in the 90s, Utah leadership fought for a Trust Land Exchange. Lands captured within Grand Staircase were traded for lands outside of the monument boundaries. Because those lands were more useable, everyone was a winner! Environmentalists and travel enthusiasts felt they protected sacred and beautiful land. Developers and investors got to do their jobs in appropriate spaces. And best of all? School Trust Lands grew their fund by over 300 MILLION DOLLARS! That Trust Land Exchange from the 90s is currently the single largest contributor to the Trust Land Fund schools use each year.

Why aren’t Utah leaders currently pursuing a Land Exchange?
Utah leadership is busy engaging in the fight for Secretary of the Interior Zinke to reduce the size of Bears Ears or overturn the monument designation outright. Even if this happens, why wouldn’t they want to trade lands we know don’t get a good return on their investment? Schools stand to receive a lot of money from an exchange whether or not the monument designation changes.

Starting a conversation around Land Exchange could also bridge the divide on the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase debates and promote civil dialogue regarding the other issues in the debate. It would also highlight the fact that monument designation has had positive impacts for all Utahns in the past. But our congressional representatives appear to be either unaware of the benefits of a Trust Land Exchange or forgetful of the benefits of the 90’s exchange. Let’s help steer them toward a good solution for Utah schools!

CALL TO ACTION

Call on our Members of Congress to pursue a Trust Land Exchange! Remind them that the 90’s Land Exchange in Grand Staircase hugely increased the School Land Trust Fund (by over $300 million!). As a public school TEACHER, PARENT, STUDENT, SPECIALIST, PARAPROFESSIONAL, ADMINISTRATOR: you support a Bears Ears Exchange. Here’s how:

  • Sign a postcard to your Members of Congress asking them to pursue a Bears Ears Exchange to benefit Utah schools. Find addresses for your two U.S. Senators and one U.S. Representative by clicking here.
  • Call our two U.S. Senators and your one U.S. Representative and ask them to pursue a Bears Ears Exchange to benefit Utah schools

Sen. Orrin Hatch (202) 224-5251 (DC) // (801) 524-4380 (SLC) // (801) 375-7881 (Provo) // (435) 634-1795 (St. George) // (801) 625-5672 (Ogden) // (435) 586-8435 (Cedar City)
Sen. Mike Lee 202-224-5444 (DC) // 801-524-5933 (SLC) // 435-628-5514 (St. George) // 801-392-9633 (Ogden)
Rep. Rob Bishop (Congressional District 1): 202-225-0453 (DC) // 801-625-0107 (Ogden)
Rep. Chris Stewart (Congressional District 2): 202-225-9730 (DC) // 801-364-5550 (SLC) // 435-627-1500 (St. George)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Congressional District 3): (202) 225-7751 (DC) // (801) 851-2500 (UT)
Rep. Mia Love (Congressional District 4): (202) 225-3011 (DC) // 801-996-8729 (West Jordan)

Not sure who your U.S. Representative is? Check here.

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