Thomas Jefferson created the Land Ordinance of 1785, establishing a way to help fund public education by giving states sections of land for this purpose as they entered the union. Today there are 38 states in the U.S. that have these special trust lands.
– Thomas Jefferson
Of the 7 million acres granted at statehood, Trust Lands manages 3.3 million surface acres and 4.5 million mineral acres today. Most of these lands were sold during the first 35 years of statehood, which was an effective way of getting land into private ownership.
of Utah’s private land holdings were once trust lands.
of the revenue generated from trust lands goes to public education.
Trust Lands generates revenue for its beneficiaries through energy & mineral leases, real estate planning, and surface resource use on trust lands. In most years, energy & minerals generates the largest portion of revenue and we are always seeking additional opportunities to expand our energy & minerals portfolio. However, last year most of the revenue was generated by real estate. Trust Lands has large landholdings in rapidly developing areas and we work to identify the right partners to bring these properties through the development process and onto the market.
Other sources of trust land income include grazing leases, timber and seed harvest, and even rockhounding. We also lease lands for commercial, industrial, and agricultural uses. Nearly every high-elevation piece of trust land has a telecommunication lease, generating profit with a relatively small footprint. Trust lands are being used for exciting projects such as Mars mission simulation and ejector seat testing as well.
Trust Lands is also involved in several conservation projects, including land exchanges with the federal government, endangered species mitigation, and stewardship projects on select trust land parcels.
Trust Lands is obligated by law to protect cultural and archaeological resources on trust lands. When trust lands are developed or sold, they first must be surveyed for the presence of cultural resource sites—often by Trust Lands’ own team of archaeologists. This process has allowed us to protect world-class sites such as the incredible Great Hunt Panel in Nine-Mile Canyon.
Nearly all of the revenue Trust Lands generates is deposited into the Permanent School Fund. This fund is managed and optimized by the State of Utah School & Institutional Trust Funds Office (SITFO) and has grown from about $50 million in 1994 to approximately $3.2 billion today. SITFO’s team of experienced investment professionals is united with the education community, legislature, and state government, and together they help fulfill Jefferson’s vision by managing and growing revenue for Utah schools—opening the door for a future of well-educated, successful citizens.
SITFO’s mission is to maximize the return on the invested principal of the School and Institutional Trusts for the benefit of Utah’s education programs by responsibly investing each fund endowment. Each year, capital gains, interest, and dividends are distributed to every school in the state based on student enrollment numbers.
Each Utah school has an elected School Community Council (SCC) made up of teachers, parents, and the principal, who determine the greatest academic needs at their school and how their allotted trust funds should be spent. The SCC comes up with a plan and submits that to the School Learning and Nurturing Development (LAND) Trust program.
The LAND Trust program is administered by the School Children’s Trust section at the Utah State Board of Education. It was established by the legislature in 1999 to distribute a portion of the annual earnings from the Permanent School Fund through districts and charter schools to all public schools in the state.
The School Children’s Trust provides training for the preparation and approval of LAND Trust Fund plans and participates on the Land Trusts Protection and Advocacy Committee. This committee provides policy oversight to the Land Trusts Protection and Advocacy Office that monitors Trust Lands and SITFO.
The School Children’s Trust section also staffs the Trust Lands Advisory Committee (TLAC), an official advisory committee to the Utah State Board of Education tasked with advising the Board regarding School Community Councils, the School LAND Trust Program, and issues related to school trust lands and funds. TLAC are education stakeholders including local school board members, parents, principals, educators, superintendents, and district staff members.
School Community Councils hold elections annually to fill open seats. Local school boards set election timelines which may be held in the fall or in the spring before the last week of school. Elections should be held at a consistent time for at least four years.
Building the Trust: Four Agencies of the School LAND Trust Program
Utah School LAND Trust: An Education Endowment
The Kauri Sue Hamilton school in Jordan School District is a school for students with severe disabilities. They used most of their funds for Mandt Training.
Cedar City South Elementary used Trust Land funds for five reading aides, a take-home library, and ongoing professional development.
During the 2020-2021 school year, the School Community Council at Wasatch High School decided to use a portion of their funds to hire a Bilingual Parent Liaison.
Both Delta North and South Elementaries used Trust Land funds to enhance learning. The funds even helped repair school damage after a flood!
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