Who owns rural Minnesota?

It may seem like a simple question, but the Center for Rural Policy and Development is making the case that rural property ownership can quickly get complicated, especially when it comes to the state’s vast mineral and forest resources.

In a new issue of its Rural Minnesota Journal, the center says:

Try digging into the concept of ownership and you’ll come up with myriad commentaries and legal theories based on the debates of philosophers in the 17th and 18th centuries. What is the best kind of ownership? Should a free society have private property? Should it have nothing but private property? The arguments of the day came down on all sides in a time when society was trying to figure out how to manage property now that the aristocracy didn’t own everything anymore.

What could be a dry philosophical debate takes on meaning when Tom Rowekamp’s modest hope to mine his friend’s sand for livestock bedding south of Rochester got caught up in the swirling debate over frac sand. Can you mine your sand for one use but not another? Or when you find historical basis for why mineral rights in southern Minnesota have a different ownership pattern than those in northern Minnesota. How did the state get to be the single largest mineral rights holder?

The center last year did some good work on the question of who speaks for rural Minnesota and it promises this year to delve into a variety of aspects of who owns rural Minnesota. It’s worth a look.