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Land swap could bring millions to Utah schools

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a land-swap bill sponsored by Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, that state officials say will put hundreds of millions of dollars into state education coffers.

The bill approves the exchange of about 40,000 acres of state-owned scenic wilderness, mostly in the Colorado River basin, for federal property rich in oil and gas resources in Uintah County. Bennett said passage of the bill completes years of work and accomplishes two important tasks.

"I've been working on this land exchange for more than five years and have been impressed by the ongoing and strong support from all of the stakeholders," Bennett said. "When crafting this bill we made sure that it would not only invest in our children's education, but also protect some of the areas surrounding our most treasured lands in Utah."

The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration will manage the acquired land as part of its 3.5 million acre portfolio. The agency grants leases to energy development companies on a portion of the property it oversees, and proceeds from those lease sales funnel into a trust account that helps finance education programs in Utah.

SITLA director Kevin Carter said Thursday the land acquisitions enabled by the bill's passage would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue in the coming years.

e-mail: araymond@desnews.com