To the Editor,

As a forest and climate ecologist in Minnesota, I am worried that the 2.5 million acres of School Trust land managed by the DNR are not prepared for climate change. By law these lands are managed to create revenue for Minnesota’s public schools—but durable, long-term revenue streams from natural resources require strong climate action.

With rising temperatures, northern forests are undergoing rapid changes. Profitable tree species like aspen and spruce are declining or will decline with hot summers exacerbated by droughts, wildfires, and pests. This jeopardizes future revenue for public schools.

We need proactive management that makes these forests resilient to a changing climate. Governor Walz’s Climate Action Framework offers valuable guidance for enhancing forest resilience, but it needs to be adopted at scale on School Trust lands. Incorporating climate-adaptive strategies, such as conserving old-growth forests, planting heat-tolerant southerly species, and safeguarding peatlands, can bolster resilience against climate change while sustaining public education funding. Enrolling old growth forests and peatlands in carbon markets offers a path to generating revenue while conserving carbon-rich ecosystems.  

In truth, climate adaptation efforts may slow immediate revenue, but climate resilient forests can yield better, longer-term value.

It is also worth stressing that 150,000+ acres of School Trust land are inside Tribal reservation boundaries, with Tribal schools receiving no School Trust revenue for the last 150 years. As a Minnesota resident, I think the state needs to start disbursing Trust revenue to Tribal schools and support sole or shared Tribal management of these lands. As an ecologist, this has added value because Tribes are leading the way in climate-adaptive land management.

With these actions, Minnesota can support climate-smart land management while conserving public education revenue into the future for all of our students.

Samuel P. Reed, Ph. D, St. Paul

University of Minnesota – Institute On The