Two writers criticize land exchange legislation

View from Oberg Trail

View from Oberg Trail (photo courtesy Superior National Forest)

Congress adjourned for a recess on Sept. 21 until after the November election — without any companion legislation being introduced to Rep. Chip Cravaack’s H.R. 5544, regarding school trust lands in the Superior National Forest.

It is still possible that Senators Klobuchar or Franken will introduce a companion bill in the Senate during the “lame duck” session after the election. The Friends and our partners are monitoring the issue.

Last week, two articles in northern Minnesota newspapers addressed the legislation.

In Northern Wilds, based out of Grand Marais, editor Shawn Perich wrote that Cravaack’s unilateral effort will likely result in failure. But, if it passed, the people of Minnesota would lose out:

The biggest losers will be northern Minnesota property owners, hunters, anglers and others who appreciate and use the Superior National Forest. Outside the wilderness, 86,000 thousand acres of land that has been in stable federal ownership will suddenly change hands.

The new owner, the State of Minnesota, may not prove to be a good neighbor. If you have a cabin on a lake which has national forest land along the shoreline, expect to see it sold and subdivided if it suddenly becomes state school trust land. Folks who have bought property adjacent to the national forest and hunters who use national forest lands may find the state has different priorities than the Forest Service, like mining development.

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The Timberjay newspaper, based out of Tower, published an editorial blasting the legislation as “poor public policy”:

In fact, annual proceeds from the state’s school trust amount to roughly one-half of one percent of total school costs, and those proceeds simply offset spending from the state’s general fund—they don’t augment it. In other words, increasing the school trust doesn’t mean so much as one penny in additional funding for schools, and Rep. Cravaack should know that. In this case, it appears he’s just using the idea of helping “school kids” to push an entirely different agenda.

Which gets us to the real effect of the bill, which is to set the stage for a wholesale give-away of public lands (currently open to all of us) to mining companies. Let’s just be honest— that’s what this is really about. Converting existing federal lands in the Superior National Forest to state ownership exempts these lands from a host of federal laws, including the Weeks Act, which prohibits strip mining in the Superior, and potentially hands environmental review and oversight over to state officials who have largely allowed the mining industry to have its way in Minnesota in recent years. Even so, there’s no guarantee that any mining jobs will be created as a result of the proposed exchange.

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    1 comment to Two writers criticize land exchange legislation

    • Donovan Reese

      As a member of Friends of the Brazos a organization based in Texas which helps keep the interest of land-owners and others who respect and try to protect this great and historic river from further development and uses not deemed good for the general public, we are in dis-gust of the recent legislation aimed at development in the pristine and beautiful area called BMCA.

      As a Texan, who spends summer in Grand Marais,MN and uses that great area, I am at a loss of understanding at the recent legislation involving mining in the BWCW. What next, mining in Grand Ganyon, Yellowstone, Big Bend, etc.etc.
      When are OUR Legislators going to ACT FOR the Public Interest’s and NOT BIG BUSINESS. Shameful, you Senator from MN. YOU DO NOT SPEAK FOR THOSE WHO VOTED YOU IN. VOTE THEM ALL OUT….

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