BOUNTIFUL, Utah (AP) _ A 1 million-acre land deal _ the country’s largest since Alaska statehood in 1959 _ was finalized Friday when Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt handed over a $50 million check to Gov. Mike Leavitt.
Leavitt accepted the check on behalf of the state’s school trust lands administration and its beneficiaries, Utah’s public school students. The school trust also will receive about $13 million in future coal revenues and 153,000 federally owned acres rich in natural resources.
In exchange, the federal government gets a checkerboard of 376,739 acres owned by the school trust, including the Jacob Hamblin Arch on Lake Powell, the Eye of the Whale Arch in Arches National Park and rock art in Dinosaur National Monument.
Utah also agreed to give up mineral rights below the surface of another 454,000 acres and drop lawsuits challenging the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument created in 1996 without consulting state officials.
``This is not a $50 million transaction,″ Leavitt said. ``Over the next 20 years, this will be a billion-dollar transaction.″
The swap eliminates all school trust lands within Utah’s national parks. Sections of land were set aside for schools at statehood in 1896, but could not be developed within the parks and reservations set aside by the federal government.