The U.S. Forest Service announced last week that it plans to begin an environmental impact study of the proposed land swap of 30,000 acres of school trust lands inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) for federal forest land outside the BWCAW. MREA along with other educational organizations has been working on this issue for over five years.
The land swap would allow the state to use the federal land in the proposed swap to generate revenue for public schools through logging, mining or other development. The Federal Government would also purchase the remaining 56,000 BWCA School Land Trust acreage.
The Forest Service opened a public comment period on the proposed land swap and received more than 1,600 comments so far and will continue to accept comments through Sept. 30. As a result of strong response the proposal has received, the Forest Service has decided to complete an in-depth environmental impact statement, according to spokeswoman Sandy Skrien.
Denise Dittrich of Minnesota School Boards Association has been very close to these negotiations. She wrote in her August 27 blog, MSBA Capitol Connections, “We feel the land swap provides a win-win solution to an ongoing issue. Swapping the trust lands with federally owned land outside the BWCAW honors the integrity of the pristine BWCAW, while the exchanged land has the potential to generate revenue for the trust fund and honors the fiduciary responsibilities of trust ownership. This is a matter of trust.”