Local taxpayers shouldn’t always have to pick up the tab

Sitting on the edge of a national wilderness, local taxpayers are all too well aware of having to pick up the tab. Two issues are currently in play, the push to exchange state land inside the BWCA for federal land, and, the loss of tax base when islands and other areas outside the BWCA are removed from the tax roles.
Our position on the BWCA land exchange is straightforward. An apple for an apple. Just as the federal law says, the state lands can be exchanged, not sold, for federal lands. Seems simple but the same people who are against seemingly everything are opposing this as well.
They want the feds to buy out the state land. Several problems with this scenario, number one being there is no pot of gold to make that happen. And, the state of Minnesota has been losing money for over 50 years by those lands not generating income. A sale will not create an ongoing revenue stream, it’s a once and done, and a fleecing of the taxpayers.
Local taxpayers know this issue inside and out. They remember where the resorts and cabins were located before the federal government created a man-made wilderness by forcing buyouts and either burning what was there or throwing it to the bottom of Basswood Lake.
Ever wonder why diving isn’t allowed in the BWCA? Here’s a hint: The Forest Service doesn’t want people to know what’s below those blue waters.
The second issue has to do with lands being bought out by non-profit trusts and later sold to the government. Gone from the tax rolls, the pie gets smaller and those of us who live here and pay taxes get to pay more.
We give the Town of Morse credit for sticking to their guns and demanding that an equal amount of government land be sold to make up for what has been lost when islands on Burntside Lake were sold to land trusts.
Instead of rolling over, the town board has prompted the Minnesota DNR to find other lands in the township to put back on the tax rolls. Will that happen? Probably, since the trust that now owns these islands has to pay property taxes until the township relents. The shoe is on the other foot.
These two examples of doing what makes sense instead of relying on emotion give us hope for the future. When the anti crowd wants to win “one funeral at a time” we want it to be known there are people of all ages who will speak up for what is right.
We’re still waiting for the Forest Service to move on funding the cost of rescuing their customers when someone sprains an ankle or has to run from a forest fire. If the cost were to be passed on in the form of an increase in the permit fees, so be it. No one should be in opposition.
Doing what’s right for the local taxpayer may not be a rallying cry for groups that claim to support more public land. Our hope is that changes. Soon.