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SITLA Board Meets to Discuss Trust Lands Within New Monument

The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) Board of Trustees met Friday, January 6 to discuss strategy, concerns, and next steps following the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument.

Prior to moving into a 2.5-hour closed session, Trustees heard from Merri Black Shumway, a San Juan County School District board member and member of the Stewards of San Juan who asked Trustees to hold off on an exchange of trust lands within the new monument until Utah leaders have the opportunity to work with the Trump administration to overturn the monument designation.

Tracy Miller, Utah PTA Trust Lands Specialist, reviewed the PTA’s official position on trust land exchanges, which calls for public education to receive the full value of trust lands as compensation for a loss of school trust lands.

“Because of the complexities involved with SITLA’s significant inholdings of 109,000-plus acres within the current designated Bears Ears monument, we have yet to receive and comprehend the information necessary to make an informed decision to perform our fiduciary duties on what is in the best interest of our beneficiaries,” said SITLA Vice Chair Tom Bachtell. “Therefore, I make the motion to defer any board decision on this matter until such time as we believe the facts have been thoroughly studied and the information is complete for in which we can make an informed decision.” The motion passed unanimously.

SITLA estimates the newly-declared Bears Ears National Monument captures approximately 109,000 acres of state school trust lands, which are managed by SITLA on behalf of Utah’s K-12 education system.

Over the past 20 years, SITLA has generated $1.7 billion in revenue from Utah’s trust lands, helping to grow Utah’s Permanent School Fund to more than $2.1 billion. Interest and dividends from this Fund have provided $320 million to Utah schools over that same period, and $50 million this current school year.