Resolving The Public Land Paradox: Exposing Landlocked School Trust Lands as a Breach of Trust

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Vermont Journal of Environmental Law


This article argues that the purpose of the Trust is two-fold: to maximize revenue (as suggested by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case inapplicable to Montana) or to "secure the largest measure of legitimate and reasonable advantage to the state" (as specified by statute and supported by the Montana Constitution, the intent of the drafters of the Montana Constitution, and the text of the 1889 Enabling Act). The State must unlock "landlocked" state trust lands to realize either purpose. The terms of the Trust explicitly allow for the State to fulfill that mandate. As long as the State neglects to use legal means to unlock these lands, Montana is in breach of its duties as trustee. Part I of the article explains the origin of landlocked school trust lands. Part II examines how the State of Montana has organized itself to fulfill its duties as trustee of the State's school trust lands. Part III explores two different theories for the purpose of the Trust. Part IV details the terms of the Trust-the tools at the disposal of the State to realize the purpose of the Trust. Part V specifies that under either purpose of the Trust, the State has an obligation to unlock "landlocked" school trust lands.

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Publication Date

Spring 2023