SCHOOL TRUST LANDS > Land Management
Currently, the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands manages slightly less than 78,000 acres of School Trust Lands, mostly located in small to mid-sized tracts in the northern third of the state.
To view a map of school trust land total acreage by county, click here.
Because the BCPL holds its lands and other assets in trust, it has a fiduciary duty to prudently manage, protect and enhance the value of its lands. To meet these obligations, our small staff engages in a full range of forest management activities, which include both sustainable forestry and conservation measures.
Slowing forest fragmentation
Northern Wisconsin as we have known it is changing rapidly. Timber companies are dividing large tracts of former industrial forestland into small parcels for sale to private individuals for retirement living, second home development, and suburban living. This shift is causing a dramatic growth in forest fragmentation, diminishing access to public recreation and hunting areas, and threatening healthy ecosystems.
The effects of fragmentation on the agency are significant. Our foresters spend more time negotiating with private landowners to gain access to timber on Trust Lands. We incur higher administrative costs for access rights when they are secured, and when access is denied, we lose timber revenue, and public use of the land is precluded.
One of the most important tools we have to slow this “parcelization” of land into smaller and smaller pieces is an environmentally and economically sustainable timber economy. We are doing our part to slow forest fragmentation and engage in sustainable forestry practices.
In July 2003, the Board approved a plan to consolidate the agency’s land holdings to sustain the Trust’s investment return and support northern communities heavily reliant upon the many benefits of public forests. Through consolidation we aim to:
In April 2006, the Legislature unanimously approved “land bank” legislation to enhance our ability to implement the consolidation plan. For the first time in our history, we were granted authority to “bank” proceeds from land sales for future acquisition.
At the same time, the Legislature authorized the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to use $2 million per fiscal year from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund to acquire for permanent protection the BCPL’s natural area quality sites.
As a result of this new authority, we can reinvest these and other land sale proceeds to purchase tracts of “working” forests and improve legal access to our existing holdings. Details about our land transactions can be found on this site and in the current biennial report.