Forest Service wishes to trade (and sell) land in BWCA

Forest Service staffer said the proposed land trade is “the first step in a process that will also include a federal purchase of state lands.” Here is the map that shows School Trust Land (Managed by the State MN DNR) within the BWCA that is to be 1. partially sold and 2. (30,000 acres of) partially traded for (39,000 acres of) Federal land within the Superior National Forest: Trade Details Map

The Forest Service is accepting comments on the proposal through May 15, 2015. The project will then go through an environmental review process.

The‘Project Scoping Package’ available under the School Trust Land Exchange webpage at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/superior/projects explains the project in detail.

Ideas communicated at the St. Paul open house, May 26, 2015:

1. Mining Rights are not included in the land the State would acquire in the Federal Forest. So the newly acquired State land within the working federal Superior National Forest would have limitations on income-producing activities. Of note: The Superior Forest is currently a working forest; i.e., currently the federal government engages in income-producing activities on the land (including the land the State would acquire for perhaps similar use), such as timber harvesting.

2. State environmental protections are less than federal, so those lands within the Superior National Forest newly acquired by the State would have lesser regulations (of note are open-pit mines and the Weeks Act). Remember: mineral rights will not be transferred in the land deal. This is due to several factors, mainly the inability to consolidate ownership (some mineral rights on the lands are tax forfeited, some privately owned, some federally owned, some unknown).

3. The state is obligated to use School Trust Lands to create funds for the trust (through activities such as agriculture, timber harvest, mining, recreation, etc.) yet the fact that the lands within the BWCA have been restricted from doing this due to the federal protection within the BWCA has some concerned about lost potential earnings, resulting in the land deal leaving out significant funding for the school fund.

4. The legality of the State’s authority to sell or barter/swap School Trust Lands has been raised. The State MN DNR is tasked with managing those lands and is managing this land deal (School Trust Land representative is in the MN DNR offices).

5. To avoid fragmenting the federal Superior National Forest, some would like to see the federal government pay (instead of barter land) for the School Trust Land within the BWCA.

6. Further information is available from federal forester, MN DNR School Trust Fund reps, and some opposition groups like the Friends of the Boundary Waters and Water Legacy

More:

School Trust Land in DNR’s Management Questioned by Minnesotans, Request for Dayton to Appoint; DNR’s Management Info. Page
Update synopsis of discussion courtesy of MPR, HERE

Other past concerns highlighted, HERE

Related Documents

BWCA Friends Group
Ely Echo

MPR

Other Superior Forest Land Deals in Action in Minnesota:

Cook County Land Deal, also in BWCA (1910.76 acres of non-federal land within the BWCAW in exchange for up to approx. 1620 acres of federal land.)

Northmet Mining Project and Land Exchange

Twin Metals Study

Completed: Lake County Fiber Optics (to run over/through Superior Forest)

Prospectors Loop Trail

Mesabi Project (includes wildlife management goals in the region)