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Improving institutional incentives for public land management: an econometric analysis of school trust land leases

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 December 2005

Institute of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia USA. Email:
School of Business, Francis Marion University, Florence, South Carolina USA.


There is considerable interest in the proper management of public lands in the United States, but questions arise over what institutional arrangements may ensure proper land stewardship. Recently, the trust doctrine has been heralded as a way to motivate prudent decision making by land managers. School trust lands, which are managed to generate revenues for public schools, represent a long-standing example of the trust doctrine at work. We examine Mississippi school trust leases and show that the trustees, who are elected officials, maintain multiple conflicting objectives, which ultimately undermine the trust relationship. However, we find that a recent institutional change that made the Boards of Education (the fund recipients) the trustees, caused revenues to increase dramatically.

Research Article
© 2005 The JOIE Foundation

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The authors would like to thank Bill Cheney from the Mississippi Secretary of State's Office, Public Lands Division, for his invaluable support. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the manuscript.