BWCAW inventory & evaluation project facts

January 16, 2001

How much land are we talking about?

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) covers approximately 1.09 million acres. There are 122,247 acres (about 11.2 percent of the total) in state ownership, both DNR-managed and county-managed. Of this, approximately 93,260 acres (8.5 percent) are Trust Fund lands, 18,450 (1.7 percent) are acquired lands, and 10,513 (1 percent) are tax-forfeited lands. These acreage amounts may be adjusted in the course of updating maps.

Under Minnesota's State Constitution and state laws, state-held mineral rights cannot be exchanged or sold, so mineral rights are immaterial in estimating the market value of state lands.

Why is this land being studied by UMD?

The Legislature wants to know the quantity, nature and approximate value of the state land within the BWCAW. Although these lands have School Trust status, they produce no School Trust revenue because no commercial extraction of natural resources is permitted inside the BWCAW. The Legislature needs this appraisal information in order to examine alternatives for enhancing School Trust fund revenues.

It directed UMD to conduct an inventory and evaluation of state-owned land within the BWCAW. This inventory will include legal and physical descriptions of the lands. A valuation of these lands, based on a stratified random sampling of the state land tracts, will be estimated. The inventory and evaluation report must be submitted to the Legislature by January 15, 2002. Questions about public policy and ownership implications are not within the scope of UMD's study and eventual report.

Why is there state land in a federal wilderness area?

The state land was there before the wilderness area was designated. The federal Wilderness Act of 1964 designated the BWCA as a unit of the National Wilderness Preservation System. In 1978, Congress passed the BWCA Wilderness Act which ended logging activities. Since that time, there have been thousands of acres of land in Permanent School Trust Fund status within the Boundary Waters, where federal laws prohibit management for timber. School Trust land was established so that the revenue from that land could benefit the public school system of the state in which that land lies. However, since the BWCAW founding, the School Trust land within the Boundary Waters has not been earning money for the Trust, as specified in Minnesota law.

Will state land outside the BWCAW get Trust status designation?

It is possible that the land will be "traded" for land outside the BWCAW boundary; if this happens, the acquired land will get trust status. Alternatively, the U.S. Congress could appropriate funds to compensate the state for putting this land in wilderness status; in that case, the compensation funds would go to the School Trust fund. Some combination of these two approaches is yet another possibility.

What is the DNR's role in this process?

The DNR has a threefold role in this study: 1) to provide maps and data bases to UMD so that those doing the research have all available information with which to conduct the study; 2) to manage the contract timeline and deliverables, so that the project is complete and ready for Legislative review by January 15, 2002; and 3) to provide licensed appraisers on staff to advise UMD on federal and state appraisal standards.

DNR is not the sole source of data and information for this study. Other sources are being sought by UMD and recommendations of additional sources are welcome. See below for UMD contact.

What information will be available about how the study is done?

A public information briefing is scheduled for January 17, 2001, at the UMD campus in Duluth. Interested persons will receive updates on the study's status; contact the DNR if you want to be added to the project mailing list; see below for DNR contact.

What is the timeline for the study?

During the first quarter of 2001, researchers at UMD will complete their initial research and inventory of the state land in the BWCAW, and establish land type classifications on which the value estimate will be based. During the second and third quarter of the year, appraisals of sample parcels (10 percent of the total) will be completed. During the fourth quarter, an economic model will be created to estimate value using that sampling. The target date for completing the study for review by the DNR staff is December 1, 2001. The report is due to the Legislature by January 15, 2002.

Who can I contact for more information?

For more information about the study, contact Richard Lichty, Bureau of Business and Economic Research, School of Business and Economics, 10 University Drive, Duluth, MN 55812-2496. Tel. (218) 726-7219; fax 218-726-6555; email:

For other information, contact Jim Lawler, DNR Division of Lands and Minerals, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4030. Tel. 651-259-5402; fax 651-297-3517; email: