DNRC Disappoints Montana School Systems

To the Editor, Recently Matt Wolcott of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, DNRC, reported that the Palisades Timber Sale on State Lands near Red Lodge will generate $1.7 million from the sale of 789 acres of trees. What he didn’t report is that this sale will only contribute about $850,000 to the State School Trust Fund because half of the money generated from the sale will be used for DNRC administrative costs. As a matter of fact half of all money generated by state land timber sales throughout Montana goes to pay administrative costs at DNRC. How can we consider the DNRC as doing an efficient and responsible job of management of the state school trust resources when 50% of the money generated by state timber sales goes to support the DNRC bureaucracy? The DNRC manages about 5.5 million acres of state land in Montana, which is 5.84% of the total land area of the state and much of this land is used for grazing. DNRC has a mandate to maximize revenue from grazing leases for the benefit of the Montana School Trust Fund. Millions of acres of state school land are leased at below fair market price (current market price is approximately $23.00/AUM) with some state grazing leases as low as $7.90 per AUM, which is 1/3 of market price. The tax payers and school students of Montana deserve proper management of the school trust lands to generate maximum revenue for the state school systems. The DNRC is not meeting expectations for proper management when they do not charge fair market value for grazing leases. If they maximized revenue from grazing leases and were more efficient in their management of timber sales they would generate much more revenue that actually benefits the Montana School Trust Fund. With these DNRC management practices it is no wonder that school districts across the state have to sponsor mill levies and have bake sales to help support the public school system. Montana taxpayers and school children deserve better and more efficient stewardship of the school trust fund lands. Richard Thayer A Montana tax payer