Local Education Relies on Local Land
Over 125 parcels of land within the newly designated monument, amounting to over 8,000 acres, are SITLA lands—the lands that generate education funding. That number is small when compared to the 1.35 million acres of The Bears Ears National Monument but, it is huge when we consider our children’s education.
What are SITLA lands?
SITLA (School Institutional Trust Lands Administration) lands are parcels of land throughout Utah that were granted to Utah by Congress in 1896. These lands have always been State lands, set aside specifically to generate money for public schools and higher education.
Since 1994 SITLA has generated $1.5 billion in revenue to help Utah schools.
Growth of the Permanent School Fund went from $50 million to just over $2 billion in only 20 years. Only 6% of the state’s acreage is SITLA land. 96% of the money generated from these lands goes to public schools.
Generated money within these SITLA lands comes through oil, gas, and mineral leases, rent, and royalties. This includes leasing to ranchers and farmers for livestock grazing and crops. Recently, a portion of SITLA land that held significant historical value for local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was sold to a group dedicated to preserving that land and its history for youth groups to learn from for generations, generating another $500,000 for local schools.
SITLA lands have always been private lands. Selling private land to a private group, helping further our children’s education, fits precisely within the mission of SITLA. Local schools also continue to benefit from sold parcels through property taxes.
Utah School Board Opposition
The Utah School Board Association passed a resolution on the 20th of August, 2016 opposing the Bears Ears Monument designation. Our children’s educators do not want this land designated. The resolution states, “Utah School Boards Association opposes the unilateral and unwarranted Presidential designation of a Monument, which is opposed by the local elected officials, the Utah House of Representatives, and Utah’s Congressional Representatives.”
They state that “local officials are in the best position to identify threats and solutions for funding education while protecting assets to ensure continued tax revenue.” In other words, local officials have more of an incentive to truly protect SITLA lands. If you want continued revenue from something, you do not destroy it. A farmer does not destroy his land by cultivating it. He grooms it, protects it, and lets it rest so that he can continue to use the land for generations to come. That is likewise the aim with our SITLA lands.
“The Utah School Boards Association, represents all 41 public school districts in
Utah and does hereby declare opposition
to the designation of the 1.9 million acres
as a National Monument.”
-Utah School Board Association
The state will have a chance to trade their SITLA lands within the monument for other BLM land. However, if monuments keep being created at the present rate, there will eventually be no more land for Utah to choose from.
SITLA land is also not public land. SITLA is usually managed as private land. Utah would be forced to take over 8000 acres of public land from another community in an effort to make up for the loss of their land in San Juan County, land that has been providing for our children’s education for decades.
Money from SITLA lands allows schools to have funds for things that they are not able to pay for out of the regular public school budget. Click here to learn more about how STILA manages the money they generate. Many have said that SITLA lands are selling out our futures for profit. But, our children are our future. Their education is what will help guide the next generation.