Iron Range Lawmakers Ask DNR, Attorney General To Sue U.S. Forest Service for Fire Mismanagement

By KBJR News 1

September 27, 2011 Updated Sep 27, 2011 at 10:27 PM CDT

DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Iron Range lawmakers are explaining why they are calling on the Minnesota DNR and State Attorney General to sue the federal government.

They want money for the damage caused by, what they say, was fire mismanagement in the Boundary Waters and filing a claim, in the end, could help education.

Lawmakers say acres and acres of school trust fund land, have been reduced to ashes thanks to a "let it burn" policy.

"This is ah, borders on outrageous that this fire got out of hand the way it did and is burning down all these trees that are part of the trust land so something should be done," said State Senator David Tomassoni, DFL -District 5.

That something involves asking the DNR to do an assessment on the economic value of the trees in the school trust land, and then asking the Attorney General to sue the US Forest Service, to get a reimbursement for the lost resources.

"My understanding is about 6,000 acres, 5,000 within the Boundary Waters and another thousand outside the Boundary Waters that was burned that belongs to the state of Minnesota," said State Representative Tom Rukavina, DFL-District 5A.

Iron Range leaders have been asking for years to exchange the trust land for land outside the Boundary Waters area.

Because the school trust land is in the Boundary Waters, no timber or iron can currently be taken from it, so the land can't produce any money for students.

If they traded that land for comparable forest land outside the boundary waters, then they say it could produce money by harvesting those resources.

Now their land to trade is worth a lot less because the trees are all ashes.

"Now we've had a fire. Now we've lost thousands of dollars in wood fiber that would ordinarily go to educate kids in Minnesota," said State Representative Tom Anzelc, DFL - District 3A.

"They should either have to compensate us or at least come to the table finally, do this exchange and let them have their policies up there, but not affect our resources," said Rukavina.

"I'm sure that the federal government will say it's one of those things we couldn't do anything about yet it's a federal policy to let these fires burn," said Tomassoni.

It's a policy the Iron Range lawmakers believe should go up in smoke.

"The policy is flawed, something has to be done and maybe it's a good start to butt heads with the federal government," said Ruckavina.

The US Forest Service says it's too early to respond to a possible lawsuit, but said it followed procedure when addressing the fire.

Posted to Web by Jena Pike