HomeSITLA Land Transfers, Exchanges: $440M and 508K Acres Protected

SITLA Land Transfers, Exchanges: $440M and 508K Acres Protected

On behalf of public schools, state hospitals and universities, the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) has worked on and continues to collaborate on land transfers, exchanges, and other transactions with the federal government to protect state trust land holdings. Collectively, these land transactions have generated approximately $441.73 million for SITLA beneficiaries as well as help preserve more than 508,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands for Utah and the nation. In 1894, the federal government granted parcels of land to Utah from which revenue could be generated to support public schools and 11 other state institutions. As manager of what is now a 3.3 million-acre land trust, part of SITLA’s legal and fiduciary responsibility is to improve its land holding position and seek to trade out of environmentally sensitive federal lands or that are otherwise rendered inaccessible or undevelopable. For example, the 1996 presidential designation of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM) enveloped more than 200,000 surface acres and mineral estate lands belonging to the public school system and other trust land beneficiaries. SITLA, along with Utah’s congressional delegation, worked with the federal government to ensure a fair land trade and even secure compensation for lost mineral royalties. A portion of lands acquired by SITLA in that exchange, known as the Drunkards Wash Block straddling Carbon and Emery counties, generated $1.5 million monthly in royalties from coal bed methane development for more than a decade. The most recent state and federal exchange involving SITLA and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was the Utah Recreational Land Exchange Act of 2009. Under the Exchange Act, SITLA and the BLM consolidated land ownership through an equal value exchange of lands in Uintah, Grand, and San Juan counties. The exchange protected environmentally-sensitive lands along the Colorado River corridor and helped position SITLA with lands more suitable for development. These exchanges have also financially benefited many rural counties. SITLA administers the Land Exchange Distribution Account (LEDA), which contributes to the complex disbursement of mineral development royalties of counties affected by the GSENM exchange. To date, 27 counties have collectively received $69.7 million from this account, which was created by the Utah Legislature in 2007. In addition to protecting the financial interests of its beneficiaries, SITLA’s work on federal land transactions have preserved and/or protected more than 508,000 acres of Utah land, an area equivalent to the combined acreage of Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef national parks.

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