Updated December 2011
State Trust Lands
Congress deeded land to states to generate financial support for schools, giving the states a valuable resource. Nearly 135 million acres of surface and 152 million acres of mineral rights are held in state ownership for schools and educational purposes. The Western states own large tracts of these trust lands, but they can be found across the country. For example, Alaska manages nearly 89 million acres; Utah has close to 4 million acres; Minnesota has over 2.5 million acres; and Louisiana owns about 1.5 million acres.
Because the states own, and hold in trust, vast amounts of forests, they play a significant role in the national regulation of forest management. Both the U.S. Constitution and case law dictate that state governments bear most of the responsibility for managing wildlife within their borders. The role of the federal government is crucial, yet it is limited.
Historically, states have emphasized commodity production on both the forests that they own and those that they hold in trust. But in recent years, many states have been introducing legislation that emphasizes more diverse management practices that heighten both production and conservation. Some examples of these state initiatives include the Unit Management Plans program in New York State, Oregon's "Greatest Permanent Value" Rule, and the Illinois Forestry Assistant Programs.
Bark Beetle Update
A new report by the U.S. Forest Service recommends allowing state and federal agencies to partner to combat the bark-beetle that has affected millions of acres of forest in the West.
States own and regulate a majority of this country's forests. Forests provide homes for wildlife, spawning grounds for some of our nation's most valuable fisheries, buffers against flood damage, and they are the main sources of our nation's drinking water. Private and state landowners own 73% of U.S. forests, while the federal government owns the other 27%. Of the special forest types, such as lower elevation forests, coastal forests and oak woodlands, the majority of acreage is owned by state and private landowners.
U.S. Forest Service