Smith Monson


The history of public land laws from disposal to retention has created a fragmented ownership in the West. The school land grants led to a spotty pattern of state trust land ownership. This in turn creates conflict between the mandates of federal agencies—whose mandate is to protect environmentally sensitive areas—and state trust land authorities—whose mandate is to generate revenues for their beneficiaries. Both mandates promote important public interests.

Legislative land exchanges present potential win-win solutions for extricating state trust lands from within federal conservation areas, but they require a process that is too long and onerous. However, by improving the process for administrative exchanges Congress could promote more efficient exchanges and increase cooperation between federal and state trust land managers. Thus, Congress should provide funding for land exchanges involving environmentally sensitive areas. Additionally, Congress should amend FLPMA’s public interest and equal value requirements to incentivize cooperation in the administrative land exchange process.