Will They Sell Your Land Out From Underneath You?

Will They Sell Your Land Out From Under You?

A number of MSRPO members in Lake County have literally had their property sold "Out From Underneath Them." Members in Saint Louis and Itasca Counties could be next.

Let me explain: on April 28, 2011 the Minnesota DNR, Division of Lands and Minerals sold fifty-year leases on thousands of acres of state-owned mineral rights in five townships beneath private and public lands for exploratory drilling for copper, nickel, palladium, platinum and others.

It was a shock to these owners that the MDNR would essentially take without compensation property upon which many of them have homes, cabins, businesses and recreational interests. The companies that bought the leases paid about $1.25 per acre. The leasees have rights to do extreme alterations and damage, such as road and structure building, drilling etc. to our lands under Minnesota Administrative Rules 6125.0700, "Form of Lease." A mining company has only to provide the surface landowner 20 days written notice before they move in with their equipment. In return, the surface landowner seems to have few legal rights against them, at least under Minnesota Administrative Rules or Minnesota Statutes.

But the Sale is Not Yet Final

The final step in the sale process for these leases is securing approval from the Executive Council of Minnesota, which is made up of the highest ranking members of the state government (Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and State Auditor). On June 8th, a small group of private owners testified in opposition to the sale. They didn't make a legal case against the sale but rather a moral one with this theme: at a time when there's plenty of public land in the immediate area it's just not right or necessary for the State to sell off mining access to private land, even if they can legally do so.

The Executive Council unanimously voted to table the matter until their next meeting which was recently scheduled for September 7th -- so there is not much time.

Your Letters and Emails Matter!

Your specific property may or may not have been included in this sale, but rest assured it could be part of the next one. The Executive Council must hear from citizens. Please use the links below to write to the members of the Executive Committee:

Honorable Governor Mark Dayton
Office of the Governor
130 State Capitol
75 Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie
Office of the Secretary of State
180 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, MN 55155-1299

Attorney General Lori Swanson
Minnesota Attorney General's Office
1400 Bremer Tower
445 Minnesota Street
St. Paul, MN 55101

State Auditor Rebecca Otto
Office of the State Auditor
525 Park St. - Suite 500
St. Paul, MN 55130

  • Let them know why you don't want these sales to be approved (example: your plans for your property), whether you are an affected property owner or a nearby resident.

  • Mention also that you will be obligated to pay property taxes on the land no matter what happens.

  • Note the tourism and recreational enterprises -- hunting, fishing, bird and animal watching, dog sledding, wild rice harvesting, berry picking, canoeing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. List the recreations you and your family enjoy in the area.

  • Express concern for your water wells.

  • Mention that DNR's promotion of mineral leasing and mining runs contrary to other DNR priorities, such as the Forest Legacy Program. In 2010, the DNR spent $34 million in taxpayer money on conservation easement payments to just one wood-products company. The purpose of the program is to keep northern forests intact. Lake County is a priority area for the Forest Legacy Program.

  • Suggest that the state sell severed mineral rights back to private surface owners.

  • Close your letter by asking the Executive Council to reject DNR mineral leases on DNR mineral holdings beneath private property since there is plenty of public land available.

It is critical to write today even if you are not directly affected at this time. These folks are merely the first -- with the current price of minerals, the exploration is just beginning. And while mining can be a real economic boon, it does not need to come at the cost of trampling personal property rights.

Here is an article to give you more background:

http://www.elyecho.com/main.asp?FromHome=1&TypeID=1&ArticleID=11355&SectionID=17&SubSectionID=34

Also here is some additional information on the issue:

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/04/25/iron-range-mineral-rights/

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/04/28/vandelinde/

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/197200/

http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/lands_minerals/mineralownership.pdf

Join MSRPO

Wishing you a wonderful Labor Day Weekend,


Jeff Forester

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