Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN/NH) wants to appear as if he's a responsible legislator who is open to the concerns of Minnesotans. There are several real world problems with portraying this image. First, he moved his family to New Hampshire. So he's not spending all that much time back in Minnie.
He tries to make up for his absence by letting the plebes meet with his staffers.
Secondly, he is a Tea Party idealogue. He's not about to compromise and work with any dirty effing hippies or libruls. And departments of state government, either.
Cravaack has introduced a vague proposal intended generating revenue for MN's schools by selling off state land inside the federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Here's what Cravaack says about his solution:
School trust lands locked within the Boundary Waters ultimately belong to Minnesota's children - our public schools have been waiting decades for this funding. Our economy cannot wait. This will produce maximum benefits for our students at minimum cost and well-paying jobs for hardworking Minnesotans, by following the state plan. Any land exchange must incorporate both surface and subsurface lands, so we do not shortchange Minnesota school children.
I am happy to support the efforts of the Minnesota legislature and the Governor by introducing a bill that will direct the secretary to implement the state-passed land swap plan. As we move forward, I will continue working with Minnesotans at the local level, as well as the DNR, the Forest Service, involved stakeholders, and my colleagues across the aisle in putting Minnesota students first.
I am a big supporter of the Boundary Waters and this bill has been crafted in a way to make it even better. The lands of Superior National Forest were set aside for the benefit of all Minnesotans. Undoubtedly, the BWCAW serves as a reminder of our nation's legacy; but the BWCAW is more than just a legacy-it's a springboard for Minnesota's future.
It sounds to me that logging and mining corporations would benefit, but not outdoors enthusiasts who flock to the BWCA by the thousands. Tourism interests who rely on a pristine BWCA are not addressed. His proposal ignores generally accepted rules for appraisal and no analysis has been done regarding if this is actually a good deal for Minnesota.
Cravaack's bill by-passes years of effort toward a resolution that satisfies everyone and is simply not terribly well thought out.
It was therefore surprising to learn of Congressman Cravaack's bill, a bill that, to my understanding, was drafted without consultation with this working group or its members, without consultation with the Forest Service or the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and without consultation with the Permanent School Trust Fund Advisory Committee.
Cravaack wants to by-pass everyone concerned about the 86,000 acres the state owns inside the BWCA so it can be logged and mined.
Here's is specifically what is wrong with Cravaack's proposal:
1. Consummating a land exchange with the State of Minnesota that incorporates unclear and problematic provisions from a bill that passed the Minnesota Legislature this year.
Includes unclear language describing land priorities for exchange that are not formal, legal descriptions understood by the Superior National Forest (e.g., "the Mesabi Purchase Unit").
Priorites parcels for exchange where a handful of mining companies with ore deposits would benefit, but where there is not an apparent benefit for the larger public.
Identifies priority lands for exchange that do not use criteria used by the Forest Service and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in the working group process, such as avoiding splitting federal surface from federal mineral estates, avoiding environmentally sensitive places, or clustering federal and state lands into efficient, more cost-effective units for management.
Provides no protective measures for how the land may be used nor assurances that existing recreational activities on these lands like hunting and snowmobiling could continue
Fails to require that the land valuation be done in accordance with the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice
Sets the stage for a 100 percent exchange instead of an approach that includes any portion that is a federal purchase. This represents a magnitude of an exchange that has been publicly unacceptable for 30 years. The Superior Nation Forest is well-loved and well-used for a diversity of activities. Losing 86,000 acres or more from this forest will be opposed by many hunters, anglers, outdoor enthusiasts and others who live, gather, and spend time in the forest. A proposal to transfer this much National Forest land to the State of Minnesota for high-intensity resource extraction will only generate conflict and further delays in returning revenues to the school trust.
2. Exempting this exchange from the National Environmental Policy Act, eliminating the public's opportunity for transparency in the process or to review and give feedback. 86,000 acres is not an insignificant amount to lose from the Superior National Forest. Stakeholders and constituents rightly expect an opportunity to assess if this or some portion of an exchange is in the public's interest.
3. Proceeding with a land exchange without a financial assessment of whether this approach provides the best revenue return to the school trust. No financial analysis has been done to compare revenue froma land exchange to revenue that could be obtained through federal purchase and subsequent investment.