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Mrs. BACHMANN. Mr. Chair, I rise today in support of H.R. 5544, the Minnesota Education Investment and Employment Act, which will set in motion a long overdue exchange of federal lands in Northeast Minnesota that will create jobs and unlock millions of dollars each year for our state's schools.
When Minnesota became a state in 1858, the federal government granted each township two plots of land to be developed, leased, or sold exclusively for the benefit of Minnesota schools. Under the Minnesota Constitution and Minnesota Law, these lands must generate revenue for schools. However, when the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was created in 1978, 86,000 acres of school trust lands were locked within the boundaries, where logging, mining, and other lucrative activities are prohibited. For over 30 years, these lands have been stripped of their revenue-raising potential and Minnesota students have been missing out on a vital revenue source for needed school improvement projects.
Thankfully, this year, a bipartisan coalition at the Minnesota State Capital, including Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, stood up to special interests and apathy to recoup the important school funding source that was sealed off with the creation of the Boundary Waters. They enacted legislation at the state level to allow an exchange of the school trust lands contained within the Boundary Waters for federal lands outside the Boundary Waters. Such an exchange would not eliminate a single acre of BWCAW land, but it would enable the creation of well-paying jobs for Minnesotans on the newly acquired lands.
H.R. 5544 will finalize the federal side of this broadly supported exchange, which will greatly benefit Minnesota students, job seekers, and families across the state. I applaud Congressman Cravaack for introducing this necessary legislation and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it.
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