State Trust Lands

There are approximately 9.2 million acres of state trust lands in the State of Arizona. Photo Credit: Sonoran Institute.

State trust lands are an important part of the landscape in the Verde River watershed and throughout Arizona. Comprising approximately 10% of the land area in the watershed, most state trust land parcels are leased for grazing or agriculture. Such uses are largely consistent with the continued provision of watershed services by state trust lands, where intact grasslands provide critical aquifer recharge supporting Verde River base flows.

However, state trust lands are quite different from other publicly managed lands. They are managed by the Arizona State Land Department under a fiduciary mandate to provide revenue for specific beneficiaries – mainly K-12 public education in Arizona. State trust lands are unique in their history and management constraints. More information on the background of state trust lands can be found here.

While the majority of trust lands in Arizona are leased for grazing and agriculture, mineral development, and commercial uses, the lion’s share of the revenue generated from state trust lands comes from sale of land for residential and commercial development. However, large-scale development of state trust land parcels within the Verde River watershed has the potential to increase groundwater pumping, which would stress the region’s water supplies and jeopardize a flowing Verde River.

The Verde Land & Water Planning Toolbox highlights a variety of strategies relevant to state trust land management. These strategies could assist the Arizona State Land Department in both meeting the trust obligations for these lands and contributing to the protection of watershed functions on key trust land parcels in the Verde River basin. Information about these tools and strategies can be found here.

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