Trust Lands History

The idea of trust lands began with Thomas Jefferson who believed that a strong democracy is founded upon education for all and proposed that land be reserved in each new state for public schools.


At statehood in 1896, the federal government transferred land to the new state of Utah to provide financial support for public education and 11 other state institutions. Along with these trust lands, Congress also created endowments, permanent funds, for each beneficiary with annual interest income supporting each beneficiary institution.


logo with numbers onlyTrust land parcels were largely allocated by apportioning the state into townships, each six by six miles, and dividing each township into 36 square-mile sections. Utah was given sections 2, 16, 32, and 36 in each township for public schools, resulting in a checkerboard of land ownership. All other designated state institutions were granted fixed amounts of acreage.


Today, on behalf of the 12 beneficiaries designated by Congress, SITLA manages Utah’s 3.4 million acres of trust land generating revenue through energy and mineral leases, rent, and royalties; real estate development and sales; and surface estate sales, leases, and easements.  View the state land management/ownership map.


All proceeds are deposited into the permanent endowments for each beneficiary. A separate agency, the School and Institutional Trust Funds Office, invests the endowments, and annual interest and dividends are distributed to each beneficiary.


Since 1994, SITLA has generated $1.9 billion in revenue to help grow the Permanent School Fund from $50 million to $2.5 billion.