State Trust Land is NOT Public Land

state trust land signLast week Governor Doug Ducey exercised common sense by directing Land Commissioner Lisa Atkins and state Sen. Steve Smith to reconsider an earlier interpretation of a rule that prohibited the leaving of foreign objects behind on State Trust land.  Roughly two years ago the State Land Department started enforcing geocaching through the lens of that rule, a decision Ducey called, “pointless”.   Agreed.

Whoopty Doo.  How magnanimous of them to allow Arizonans to participate in a harmless, healthy activity on state land.  More important than this non-news, is the crystal clear picture of the differences between State Trust Land and federally managed public land that this example paints for us.  It also foreshadows what we should expect if our public lands are transferred to the state – restricted or outright loss of access.

Right now a federal (read PUBLIC, how clever of them…) lands transfer study committee appointed by Gov. Ducey and led by Rep. Brenda Barton is working hard on a propaganda campaign to convince the general public that transfer of public lands, owned by all of us, held in public trust and managed by federal agencies, to the state of Arizona is a good idea.  They are going to tell us that the state can manage it better than the federal agencies and so on and so forth.  Don’t take the bait.  Throwing the baby out with the bath water is never the answer.  Once title is given to the state, our collective voice will be forever muted.  We should be urging our state and federal politicians to work on solutions to the real problem – the lack of adequate funding of the federal agencies.

This has always been a set up.  Pro-transfer politicians starve the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service.  Those agencies struggle.  Pro-transfer politicians point and say, “see they can’t do the job”.  Let’s transfer those lands to the state.  Now they know the state can’t manage them for the same reason the federal agencies can’t manage them – money.  So what happens next?  You guessed it – monetize them.  Multi-use management?  Nope.  Not anymore.

I published this list in a slightly different order in a previous article but it bears repeating here:

  1. State Trust Land is NOT public land. The rules are different. Camping, hunting, mountain biking, target shooting – activities allowed on America’s public lands are either off limits or severely restricted on State Trust Land. Sale is also restricted on America’s public lands. State Trust Land can be liquidated by the state to “benefit the public school system” or more likely to continue the pocket lining of state politicians.
  2. State trust land exists for one reason, to create the highest economic benefit for the public school system. Public lands are managed by federal agencies for multi-use – that includes both public recreation and resource extraction. Here is the first sentence of the Arizona State Land Department’s mission statement, “To Manage State Trust lands and resources to enhance value and optimize economic return for the Trust beneficiaries, consistent with sound business management principles, prudent stewardship, and conservation needs supporting socio-economic goals for citizens here today and future generations. “
  3. Pro public land sale politicians and citizens have no expectation of these lands remaining open to the general public. Well, unless they are barren of resources and devoid of benefit to private business. If feasible, they will be leased, mined, or sold. Gates locked and access to me and you lost forever.
  4. States cannot afford to manage these lands. The cost of fire suppression alone would bankrupt State Trust Land departments. Again, the pro land sale sect understands this math and intends to use it later as rationale for the eventual sale and privatization of these lands.
  5. The states never owned these lands. Each state, at statehood, was given parcels of land by the federal government. The states never owned the land within their boundaries. The remainder of land is held in the public trust and managed by federal agencies. It belongs to all of us. See the State Trust Land’s website here for more information.

Please write our politicians, get involved, speak up.  The consequences of standing on the sidelines are dire and irreversible.

12 thoughts on “State Trust Land is NOT Public Land

  1. All state and federal lands should be public, so if give/entrusting the land to the star means we loose access, than I vote no keep them public and let’s support the Feds to be able to manage it


  2. See item #2. Highest economic benefit. Geocaching is facilitated by a .com. They charge people to post coordinates and to post finds. They should pay for the use of State Trust Lands, as required by State statutes


  3. I am a hunter and participate in geocaching . Just to clarify, a permit $$ IS REQUIRED for biking, geocaching, hiking, etc. on STL. In other words non-consumptive users are required to purchase a permit to access State Trust Land in AZ


    • Very true. So max annual spend if you pay for your family is $20 that goes to the state land department, not to conservation efforts. A better question is, how much tax revenue is generated via those same activities on public, state or private land by purchases made at retail, that benefit conservation? I would bet that if you added up all of the non-consumptive user permit fees on all lands (whether they benefit conservation or not), the sum would be a modicum of what hunters and anglers generate for conservation.


  4. I was born and raised in Arizona. A long time archery hunter. I live out of state and come home every year spending 600 on licenses and tags. Not to mention the revenue that I spend feeding myself for the month. Its my land and I have every right to use it as will my son’s and grandchildren. You political aholes care of only lining your pockets and not caring of the beautiful wildlife that is being destroyed. Makes me sick


  5. Typical libs – no dissenting opinion accepted. You only want the Constitution to be applicable when it supports your desires. The feds are not supposed to own land outside of military base needs. But hey, don’t let facts get in your way. There is no difference in your mission than those who want to raise the minimum wage, or have subsidies for corn, oil, green energy, etc. You talk about self-reliance in your inner circles yet cry like babies when the feds don’t bottle feed you.


    • This is a blog, not a forum. It’s based in fact. If you want someone to listen to you uniformed opinion, I would suggest starting your own blog. Your point on the constitutionality of the people owning land, held in trust, and managed by the federal government is flat out incorrect. In 229 the SCOTUS has yet to interpret the constitution in a way that supports your opinion. See Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2. Should we give back Alaska and Louisiana, too?

      In regards to your assertion that I’m liberal. I’ve voted for R’s as many times as D’s. I vote, in an educated manner, on the issues. Try it.


  6. State Trust Land is not public multi use land, even if you believed it was to be. Ignorance doesn’t mean you are correct.

    In some states you can’t even hunt state trust land. Trust land was granted to the states in 1912 & hasn’t changed much since…

    I am a life long resident of Arizona and I use to believe State Trust Land was public land, there for I felt entitled to have access to it. I was wrong, although I still think it sucks!

    Federal land has its problems as well. So to deny the red tape would be ignorant as well. There is no reason every National Forest with in a given state should have multiple different regulations which are designed to generate revenue, such as the how far you can camp off the road. That’s just insane!

    I also read on a recent post where the author referred to ranchers as getting sweet heart lease deals on public land as compared to private land leases. This may be the case, BUT if you are going to throw this comment out then WE as a hunting community better be prepared to call our public land access (free) a sweet heart deal as well.

    I am a hunter, guide, business and family man. I am pro access, but feel like NO one is telling the truth. Everyone has a vested interest in getting theirs. I don’t want to see federal lands being transferred to the states, but at the same time I did thing we must address the issues with federal land as well.


    • Craig, I never believed state trust lands to be public lands. Quite the opposite. That’s why the article is titled, “State Trust Land is NOT Public Land.” It’s calling out the many distinctions between federally managed public land and state owned state trust land. It was written to inform those who might believe like you once did, that state trust land is public land, when in fact it is not. That way they can make informed decisions and have informed discussions with other hunters. I also am not lobbying for state land to become public land. I just don’t want, for all of the reasons outlined, current publicly owned land to become state owned land.

      Visit some of the links referenced in the article. State trust land is managed for highest monetary benefit and public owned land is managed for multiple use. Addressing issues with the federal management is definitely the most prudent course of action but in order to do that we must address funding. Federal agencies have been starved to death for decades so that they would fail. That said, it comes as no surprise that they don’t have the resources to manage the lands. Also, public land is not free to hunters and anglers – far from it. Please read my latest post Hunters and anglers contribute a disproportionate amount to conservation and fund state G&F efforts almost entirely. If you don’t believe me call anyone at AZGFD. Pittman-Robertson, Dingell-Johnson, licenses, fish and duck stamps. We pay. When I’m out hunting or wetting a line I’m also not using that land to run a for-profit business. You are as a guide and pay a $300 annual fee if I’m not mistaken, correct? Ranchers should have to pay to use the land to run a business as well.


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