WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. House approved legislation Wednesday that would swap 86,000 acres of state-owned land inside the Boundary Waters for an equal value of federal land outside the wilderness.
The bill, which has not been introduced in the Senate, is an effort to end a decades-long disagreement over what to do with state-owned land locked inside the1.1 million acre federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness since 1978. Because that land has been unavailable for logging or mining, it has contributed nothing to the state's permanent school trust fund that helps pay for K-12 education across the state.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., would force the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service to make the swap.
The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill authorizing the deal in April. Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill.
But environmental groups say the swap will weaken protections on the land traded to the state, much of it on the southern fringe of the Superior National Forest, and that the move is really a veiled effort to open up more land for mining with lesser state regulations.