By The Assocated Press
JACKSON — The secretary of state’s office has made it easier for the public to obtain information on hunting and fishing leases on 16th Section school lands.
“Mississippians interested in leasing hunting and fishing land from the state can get a comprehensive view of the land they are looking to lease through this program. In many areas, the maps are so detailed, cars are actually visible on the roads,” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said in a statement.
Hosemann said at the site, users will see a map of Mississippi with deer icons representing the approximate location of each lease. Users can see which leases which expire in 2010 and leases on which the bidding process is currently open. Also listed is the current amount of the lease, acreage, school district contact information, as well as the forest management plan for the particular parcel.
Bids can also be placed online for the 191 section leases set to expire this year.
“This new program is designed to increase the use of our hunting and fishing leases by the public throughout the state. Hopefully, revenue will increase as well, meaning more money pumped back into our schools, and the less taxpayers will have to supplement our school systems. This is a win-win for everyone,” Hosemann said.
Based on current projections, he said school districts generate roughly $2.8 million dollars in hunting and fishing leases this year.
John Wilson of Jackson is a member of a club that combines private land leases with a 16th Section lease.
“Used to be everybody was so secretive about the (16th sections) and I think the ‘Good Ol’ Boy’ system locked a lot of us out,” Wilson told The Clarion-Ledger. “That has all changed over the past decade or two and as I understand it, this new computer upgrade will make it more competitive.
“That will make some people mad, you know, guys who have had those leases locked down for so long. But, overall, it will benefit more people by giving everybody a chance to bid.”
All 16th Section land is owned by the state, but school districts have fiduciary responsibility over the land and are charged with maximizing the revenue which is generated through leases.
Sixteenth Section land was established in the 19th century as school trust land, with rents to be paid in support of the local schools.
The 16th Section of each 36-square-mile township belongs to the schools and must be used for the benefit of public education. The leaseholders may own the buildings or houses but not the land they are on. They can lease the property and must pay property taxes.
“Not only does this make the system more open and fair to all sportsmen and women in Mississippi, but it makes the system more accountable,” Hosemann said. “Each school board in each county can compare their lease rates with other counties. Fair market value will always work itself out.”
Hosemann told The Clarion-Ledger that one of the biggest problems facing sportsmen is access.
“I think this system can help put more families in the woods by providing more opportunities to have access to leases. As lease rates rise, the opportunity is still there for a group of families to get together, combine resources and lease tract of land they can all use,” he said.
On the Net:
Secretary of state hunting leases, http://maps.thegeospatialgroup.com/SOS/HuntingLease