Land Board Approves Fee increase for Leased Land

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The Montana Land Board agreed Monday to increase fees for state land leased to cabin sites but also agreed to extend the length of the leases.

Fees on many of the sites were expected to go up, especially those in popular recreation areas. New appraisals show the value of the underlying land has increased.

The Land Board, made up of the five statewide elected officers from the governor on down, is bound to raise revenue from state land to benefit Montana schools.

But the group faced criticism from those who lease the land that price increases were not affordable — and from the state’s public schools and universities, who argued the trust land needs to be managed for generating revenue.

A compromise approved Monday increase the lease costs by 43 percent statewide, said Mary Sexton, director of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. The deal also extends the leases, a provision the lessees were seeking.

So the new 2009 base value of the leases would be based on the 2003 appraised value of the lease, plus 6.5 percent for the past six years.

Going forward, rates would go up every year using a new formula based on the real estate appreciation index combined with the consumer price index.

“Is this a perfect answer?” Sexton said. “I can honestly say I don’t think there’s a perfect answer out there.”

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