Time to Create a Natural Resources Trust

Unlike most countries and state governments, the U.S. has not created a natural resources trust which could help meet volatility and spending challenges facing local and county governments.

  • Nearly every U.S. state and nation with significant natural resource wealth has a trust. Alaska, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming all have significant energy trust funds, and Norway’s fund is valued at more than $850 billion.
  • Establishing a permanent Natural Resources Trust would stabilize payments to states and local governments, eliminate the need for permanent appropriations, and weaken the incentives to use federal lands exclusively for extractive activities.
  • This article explains how a Trust could work, illustrates several examples—Oregon and national timber payments, as well as offshore energy production—and ends with five principles for a successful Natural Resources Trust.

word cloud US Sovereign Wealth Fund

Rethinking Public Land Revenue Sharing: Utilizing a Natural Resources Trust to Address Volatility, Equity, and Incentives

Update: Read our May 2017 testimony before the United States Senate that explains how such a Trust could work to provide permanent funding for county payments by using the proceeds of timber, recreation, mineral, and land use receipts to benefit states and counties adjacent to federal public lands. A Trust could provide permanent funding that would ensure stable and fair payments to counties and eliminate the need for congressional appropriations over time.

The U.S. federal government is conspicuous in having tremendous resource wealth but no permanent trust fund of any kind to manage these revenues.

By comparison, trusts are utilized by nearly every U.S. state and other nations with significant natural resource wealth. For example, Alaska, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming all have significant oil and natural gas trust funds, and Norway’s massive sovereign wealth fund is valued at more than $850 billion.

Our research paper explains how such a Trust could work, illustrates several examples–Oregon and national timber payments as well as offshore energy production—and ends with five principles for a successful Natural Resources Trust.