When Utah became a state, having agreed to give up polygamy and other strange practices, part of the deal was that four square miles of every section (36 square miles) would be reserved for the state to use primarily for the benefit of public schools. Hence the birth of SITLA (School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration).
I don’t know exactly when it got started, but officials were definitely asleep at the wheel in the early days. There are virtually no SITLA lands on the most valuable sections on and around the Wasatch Front. Those were previously occupied, stolen or given away – all pretty much the same thing. They know what they did. That left the parcels in rural and southern Utah that nobody wanted or cared about, much like the vast majority of our public lands.
Stuff happens and times change. Now some of these properties have become extremely valuable, and SITLA has morphed into a state agency behemoth not answerable to anyone.
Here’s the problem. By law, funds from sales, leases and trades of SITLA land have to be distributed proportionately. That means BIG school districts on the Wasatch Front that have no SITLA land, get the vast majority of the money generated in our neighborhood.
The money from SITLA land sales, leases and trades should go to the school districts where those lands are located. It’s a legal thing, and will be a big fight. The rules can’t be changed just because they should be, and the powers that be on the Wasatch Front aren’t going to change anything just because it is rational or appropriate.
So this is a call to action. Contact your representatives and let them know that the proceeds reaped from SITLA land transactions should primarily benefit the counties and communities where those lands are situated. If the movement is successful, it will be a huge benefit for school districts in Grand, San Juan and other rural Utah counties.