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AGO Opinions with Topic: BOARD OF NATURAL RESOURCES
AGO 1996 No. 11 >  August 1, 1996
STATE - LANDS - FOREST LAND - LEGISLATURE - BOARD OF NATURAL RESOURCES - LANDS - COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC LANDS
State's trust responsibilities with respect to lands granted by the United States or placed in trust through state legislation 1. The Enabling Act facilitating the admission of Washington into the union (25 Stat. 676) is a limitation on state legislative authority and requires that federal grant lands be held in trust; exercises of legislative authority over federal grant lands will be tested by fiduciary principles. 2.  Common law trust principles are instructive with respect to the administration of federal trust lands by the State, but the Legislature's management decisions are accorded a deference not granted a private trustee because of the presumption of constitutionality that applies to exercises of state legislative authority. 3.  Federal and state laws of general application (such as the Endangered Species Act) apply to federal grant lands administered by the State. 4.  The State's duties as trustee of federal grant lands run separately to each trust; joint administration is permissible where it serves the interests of each trust, so long as each trust is separately accounted for. 5.  The State must separately account for each federal land grant trust, and maintain separate funds or accounts to that end. 6.  The Legislature may lawfully delegate to the Department of Natural Resources and the Commissioner of Public Lands a role in administering forest lands within the State, including federal grant lands, while simultaneously authorizing the same agency and officer to play a role in regulating such lands. 7.  In its administration of federal trust lands, the Department of Natural Resources is not subject to chapters 11.98, 11.100, 11.106 or 11.110 RCW. 8.  The Department of Natural Resources has the authority to satisfy the requirements of the Endangered Species Act by entering into a long-term management plan, so long as the plan does not violate the Department's common law or statutory duties regarding the federal grant land trusts. 9.  The exercise of discretion by the Department of Natural Resources with respect to administration of federal grant lands will be tested against an abuse of discretion standard; as against a trust beneficiary, principles regarding a trustee's exercise of discretion would apply, while as against a non-beneficiary, principles of administrative law would apply. 
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