Tuesday, May 12, 2009

State Land Commissioner Mark Winkelman resigns


Mark Winkelman, State Land Commissioner for Arizona, announced his resignation yesterday, effective May 22. [right, Mark Winkleman, Arizona State Land Commissioner, and Scott Cooke, Safford Field Manager, BLM, sign documents approving the Dry Lake wind farm for construction on public lands, last year. Credit, SRP]

In a letter to department staff, Mark noted the record accomplishments the department has made in recent years in raising revenues for the trust beneficiaries.

It's my sense there is little understanding of the role and duties of state trust land departments in Western states.

When the territories became states, some amounts of federal lands were set aside in trust for different groups of beneficiaries, with school children being the largest. The trust lands were to be used solely for the financial well-being of the beneficiaries. This was codified in the federal enabling legislation creating the state and typically in the new state's constitution.

Any deviation from maximizing the beneficiaries revenues is a violation of the trustee's fiduciary responsibilities and the courts have upheld that consistently and repeatedly across the public lands states of the country.

That put state land departments in a quandry because of competing demands for management of those extensive trust lands for purposes other than simply making the most money from them.

Mark worked really hard to balance the departments legal obligations with environmental and public concerns about development of trust lands.

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