Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands

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Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands
Agency overview
Headquarters101 E. Wilson Street, 2nd Floor, Madison, Wisconsin 53703
Agency executive
  • Jonathan Barry[1], Executive Secretary
Parent agencyWisconsin Legislature

The Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands is a Wisconsin state agency responsible for managing the Wisconsin Trust Funds for public education financing, and for managing remaining Wisconsin Trust Lands. The agency was set up in the Wisconsin Constitution, ratified in 1848.[2]

The board was originally set up in the nineteenth century to oversee the sale of Trust Lands, land that was allotted to the government for sale to finance public education. A limited amount of trust land is still administered by the board—about 5,600 acres (23 km2) of the more than 1 million originally allotted to the state.[3]

Trust funds[edit]

Proceeds from the sale and management of the Trust Lands are now a part of four Wisconsin Trust Funds: the Common School Fund, Normal School Fund, University Fund, and Agricultural College Fund.[4]

The Common School Fund was created from the sale of the 16th section in each of Wisconsin's townships—this amounted to almost 1,000,000 acres (4,000 km2). The U.S. Congress added to the fund by allocating an additional 500,000 acres (2,000 km2) to the state fund. In addition, the state grants the fund all fines, fees, forfeitures, and unclaimed property that escheats to the state. Funding is distributed annually to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for distribution to public schools for use towards public school libraries.[3][5]

The Normal School Fund was created in 1865 from the sale of half of the land Congress allocated to Wisconsin in the Swamp Land Act after the Wisconsin Legislature decided not all of the land was needed to fund land reclamation. The fund was meant to provide funding to normal schools, or state teacher colleges. Since Wisconsin's state teacher colleges merged with the University of Wisconsin System in 1971, the fund now is used for scholarships in environmental education within the system.[6]

The University Fund was created from Congressional grants in 1838 and 1854 of four townships to be sold to support a university. Interest from the proceeds are distributed annually to the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[7]

The Agriculture College Fund was created from proceeds of land allocated to the state by the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act. The state received 240,000 acres (970 km2) of land under this act. Funds are distributed annually to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the state's land-grant university.[8]


The board often invests money from Trust Funds to further other state purposes. In 2006, the board purchase $2 million in state bonds to benefit the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.[9]


According to the constitution, the commission consists of the Secretary of State of Wisconsin, State Treasurer of Wisconsin, and Attorney General of Wisconsin.[2]

Tia Nelson previously served as Executive Secretary of the BCPL.


  1. ^ "Board of Commissioners of Public Lands - Staff Directory". Bcpl.wisconsin.gov. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  2. ^ a b Wisconsin Constitution, art. X, secs. 7–8. Wisconsin Blue Book, 1853, at 29. Wisconsin Constitution, Dec. 2009.
  3. ^ a b Common School Fund, Board of Commissioners of Public Lands
  4. ^ Trust Funds, Board of Commissioners of Public Lands
  5. ^ Wisconsin's Common School Fund, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
  6. ^ "Board of Commissioners of Public Lands - Normal School Fund". Bcpl.wisconsin.gov. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  7. ^ "Board of Commissioners of Public Lands - University Fund". Bcpl.wisconsin.gov. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  8. ^ "Board of Commissioners of Public Lands - Agricultural College Fund". Bcpl.wisconsin.gov. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  9. ^ "Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs News Article Page". Dva.state.wi.us. Retrieved 2010-05-03.

External links[edit]