FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 8, 2010
McKenna refuses to stand up for Washington’s schools, Goldmark is forced to seek other options
DNR seeks to appeal condemnation ruling in Okanogan County
OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announces its intention to appeal the recent decision in the Okanogan County Superior Court regarding the condemnation of Common School Trust lands for an Okanogan PUD transmission line.
“We have a fiduciary responsibility to manage the trusts for current and future generations. I believe that Okanogan PUD’s proposal will have unacceptable negative impacts, including increased fire risk and higher management costs for the trusts,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “I am deeply disappointed in Washington’s Attorney General.”
Unlike most court proceedings that are handled by the Office of the Attorney General, DNR will be forced to seek other counsel to represent the state given Attorney General Rob McKenna’s refusal to do so. Commissioner Goldmark is currently assessing the state’s options.
“By refusing to represent the Common School Trust and the non-tax revenue it generates, Mr. McKenna is choosing to allow the inappropriate use of eminent domain over Washington’s schools,” said Commissioner Goldmark. “Mr. McKenna is choosing to play politics with our state’s heritage.”
DNR has multiple concerns over the bifurcation of trust land parcels that cannot be mitigated. A transmission line cutting through the middle of trust land will reduce the value of the remaining lands and increase the cost of managing the trust’s land including:
- Reduced income from the trust’s land from road building and elimination of working lands.
- Increased fire risk from activities along the line’s corridor. DNR has also had challenges with the PUD’s vegetation management and inability to timely pay for fire costs.
- Increased road building would allow for more unauthorized use and increase enforcement costs.
- Increased costs to remove noxious weeds.
The state Attorney General’s unwillingness to represent the trusts comes during difficult economic times and follows a year where DNR had to reduce staff by 114 people.
Washington is a “land grant” state
Like many states in the American West, at statehood Washington received a checkerboard of “trust land” parcels from the Federal government. This land was meant to provide income for education and other public infrastructure. Unlike other states who have largely sold their granted lands, Washington’s leaders have had the foresight to maintain this working lands base that is a vital economic engine.
Common School Trust
Since 1967, revenues derived on lands within the Common School Trust have provided about $3 billion in non-tax revenue for the capital construction of public school facilities. These non-tax revenues are generated by the private sector on trust lands through agriculture, grazing, and timber harvest.
DNR also manages various trusts for universities, state facilities and counties throughout the state.
Media Contact: Aaron Toso, Director of Communications & Outreach, 360-902-1023, email@example.com
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