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.
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