To the Editor,

Democrats at the Capitol have been forcing through legislation that follows an alarming trend: eliminating transparency and ignoring input. That trend seems to be continuing into this legislative session. I’m sure folks recall last year, when Democrats pushed through the land transfer of the Upper Sioux Agency State Park. It was done so in a way that kept everything quiet until it was done, so that those who may have been against the transfer didn’t have much of an opportunity to speak on it. This sets an alarming precedent, and cuts folks out of the discussion, when these decisions should be made in public to allow input. Transparency should always be the priority. 

It seems that trend is continuing into this year, because Senator Kunesh introduced a bill to transfer over 155,000 acres of the White Earth State Forest land to the White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. That includes 65 miles of roads, 70 miles of public trails, nearly 43,000 acres of DNR managed lands, 47,000 acres of county-managed land and over 34,000 acres of private lands. Some of these private lands include homes, farmlands, and forest lands. This large portion of land crosses into my district and Senator Steve Green’s district, and we are both concerned with this bill and the precedent it sets. 

What concerns me the most is Democrats’ repeated actions of shoving bills through committee, while actively rejecting feedback on those bills. So far, I’ve heard of folks in the area calling the bill author to discuss the issue, yet they have been turned away. Why is that? Bill authors should always be open to feedback from both sides. What’s upsetting about this, is that it will affect a large swath of land in northern Minnesota, and the author of the bill lives nowhere near the affected areas and communities, therefore she has no idea what this will do to local families and businesses. This is just not the right way to do business. It is incredibly important that local families get a chance to provide input on a change like this. 

Another concerning issue is how this will affect the various farmland in the area. Unfortunately, that’s not something I’ve heard the bill author address at all. There is a lot of valuable farmland in the area of that state forest, and this bill will essentially do-away with them. In a time of high costs and soaring inflation, that leaves our farmers in the area with nothing. Again, their concerns are not being addressed and they are not being listened to. 

I’m also concerned with the precedent we’re setting here. Senate Democrats forced through the Upper Sioux Agency State Park transfer last year, and did so in the dark of night. I’m concerned that this year’s bill will follow the same path. By pushing these bills through, Democrats are saying the state can take any land it wants and can redistribute it to whoever they deem to be deserving. This issue has been going on for years, but this specific bill hits close to home. Unlike the bill author, I want to hear from constituents. If you have any interest in this issue, please reach out to my office at This is one bill folks should not be silent on.

Paul Utke,

State Representative

Park Rapids, Minn.