Oklahoma Land Office Continues Tradition of Supporting State's Education System this OctoberThu, 28 Sep 2017 16:11:32 CDT
Coming up this October, the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office will begin hosting its annual land auctions benefitting the state’s public education system. The CLO’s administrator, Secretary Harry Birdwell, stopped by the Radio Oklahoma Ag Network studios recently to visit with Farm Director Ron Hays about these upcoming auctions, how they came about and how they benefit Oklahomans. You can listen to their complete recorded conversation, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
According to Birdwell, the concept itself, goes back even further than statehood. He recalls that it was actually President Thomas Jefferson who conceptualized the idea after brokering the Louisiana Purchase, with the forethought that as the United States developed westward - there would be a need for a well-educated population. He orchestrated a federal government program that granted states, as they became member states of the Union, large tracks of land to be managed for the financial benefit profiting a public education system. And, Oklahoma has done so with the land granted by the federal government ever since the state was established.
Birdwell says Oklahoma has been a successful steward of its school land, having built upon the original grant and in just the last ten years, has actually doubled the net income generated by the land. This is not the case for some states, mostly east of the Mississippi River, that sold their land and divested their interests - today, having nothing to show for it.
“As a result, this constitutional trust that was established, owns and manages for the benefit of public education, a million acres of land and a million-two hundred thousand acres of mineral interests across the state,” Birdwell said. “And, we have over time accumulated invested trust funds of nearly $2.5 billion. So, all those things are used and the income generated each year is distributed to the K-12 school districts and several of the higher education institutions in the state each year.”
Birdwell’s office sets the required standard of care for each track of land under the CLO’s management and works with lessees to ensure that proper stewardship for the land is maintained. Considerable investment is also made by the CLO each year to improve its land holdings.
“We spend a lot of money and effort each year for soil conservation improvements and developing water resources, drilling water wells, improving pond structures, etc.” he said. “So, that the land is more valuable tomorrow than it is today - and a blessing for the people of Oklahoma, a century from now.”
The first of nine auctions covering 540 total tracks of land for all purposes including farming, ranching or recreation, begins on October 16, 2017 and the final one, October 31st. All tracks of land are leased by live public auction in accordance to the State Constitution and for a period of five years. However, the mineral assets of the CLO are subject to either a closed or electronic bid system.
For more information and the complete details on all the tracks of land up for auction this year, be sure to check out the CLO’s website, at clo.ok.gov
Birdwell will join Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays for his weekly In the Field segment on KWTV News9 in the Oklahoma City area on Saturday morning at 6:40 a.m.
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