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Inventory of the California State Lands Commission Records
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Administrative History
  • Scope and Content
  • Accruals
  • Related Collections at the California State Archives
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: California State Lands Commission Records
    Dates: 1923-2000
    Collection number: R210
    Creator: California State Lands Commission
    Collection Size: 44 cubic feet
    Repository: California State Archives
    Sacramento, California
    Abstract: The California State Lands Commission Records consist of 43 cubic feet of textual records with selected photographs and maps interfiled reflecting the Commission's management and supervision of California's state owned lands. There are 0.25 cubic feet of VHS Video tapes and 0.25 cubic feet of additional audio visual material including floppy disks, photographic slides, and negatives that have been separated from various series and removed to the cold storage media vaults for preservation purposes. The records date from 1940-2000 and document the work of an agency functioning in the State of California continually for the last seventy-three years and continuing in existence today.
    Physical location: California State Archives
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

    Administrative Information


    While the majority of the records are open for research, any access restrictions are noted in the record series descriptions.

    Publication Rights

    For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the California State Archives. Permission for reproduction or publication is given on behalf of the California State Archives as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement which may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives' collections.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], California State Lands Commission Records, R210.[series number], [box and folder number], California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, California.

    Acquisition and Custodial History

    The California State Archives acquired the California State Lands Commission Records according to state law.

    Administrative History

    The formal administration of state public lands began in 1858 with the creation of the State Land Office for the purpose of "ascertaining, protecting, and managing the title and claim of the state to any lands within its limits, derived by grants from the United States, or in any other manner." The Surveyor General, a statewide elected official whose Office was established by the 1849 California Constitution, served as ex officio Register of the State Land Office (Chapter 176, Statutes 1858). The State Land Office and the Office of Surveyor General were replaced, and their duties, powers, purposes, responsibilities and jurisdictions transferred to the newly-created Division of State Lands within the Department of Finance in 1929.
    The California State Lands Commission (CSLC) was established by the State Lands Act of 1938 (Statutes 1938, Chapter 5, first extraordinary session). Operative as of June 11, 1938, it succeeded the Division of State Lands. In creating the Commission, the Legislature sought to establish "fiscal integrity, public accountability and political checks and balances" in the administration of California's state lands due to wide-spread abuses in the leasing of public lands. The CSLC was created as an independent body charged with the management and supervision of all statutory lands which the state has received from the federal government including the beds of all naturally navigable waterways including rivers, streams, lakes, swamp and overflow lands, vacant school lands, and granted lands. The Commission must keep records of these lands and must act on cessions and retrocession of jurisdiction to and from the federal government. The Commission represents the State in all contests between it and the United States in relation to public lands." The Governor's budgets consistently list the Commission's broad and sweeping objectives to include the following: land use planning, locating precise state lands boundaries, the effective development of oil, gas, geothermal and other mineral resources within the state, while protecting the state's land management interests through surveillance, litigation, and records maintenance.
    The Commission is composed of three members specified by office rather than by individual: the Lieutenant Governor and State Controller, both statewide elected officials, and the Director of Finance, an appointee of the Governor. The membership of the Commission represents a combination of policy and fiscal attributes of the State's executive branch in that the Director of Finance is responsible for the formulation and administration of the Governor's budget, while the State Controller serves as the state's accountant and auditor, which help inherently provide a checks and balances system. The Commission sets policy and in noticed, public hearings approves or denies applications for the use of the state's lands and resources. Several administrative divisions provide staff services to the Commission in the execution of their duties. Administrative and executive programs support the work of the Commission and its other budget line programs.
    Government publications continued to list the "Division of State Lands" instead of the Lands Commission as the presiding authoritative body to which state funds were dispersed until 1975, despite the Commission's long-held, legislated position. While the division did exist concurrently with the Commission during those years, it served as the staff of the Commission, administering state sovereign and public lands in accordance with the policies established by, and under the authority of, the Commission.
    The CSLC as a land trust manager possesses the authority and responsibility to manage and protect both the important natural and cultural resources on certain public lands within the state, and the public's right to access these lands. There are two principles that govern the management of State Lands: the Public Trust Doctrine, by which the State holds public lands in trust for commerce, navigation, fisheries, recreation, and ecological preservation and study, and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) which requires the Commission to ensure that potential negative environmental impacts from the use of state lands are prevented or reduced to insignificance. Public education, conflict resolution and collaborative planning as well as judicial remedies are entertained by the Commission in the fulfillment of their management responsibilities to preserve and protect, administer and develop state resources. The Commission constantly faces the dual challenge to meet the state's financial needs for substantial non-tax revenue and the need to protect California's natural resources and environment from pollution and degradation.
    There are two types of public lands under the Commission's jurisdiction: sovereign and school lands. Sovereign lands presently encompass approximately four million acres. These lands include the beds of California's naturally navigable rivers, lakes and streams, as well as the state's tide and submerged lands along the state's more than 1,100 miles of coastline, extending from the shoreline out to three miles offshore. In short, the CSLC's jurisdiction extends to more than 120 rivers and sloughs, 40 lakes and the state's coastal waters. Jurisdiction over school lands throughout the state include surface and mineral ownership of approximately 469,000 acres and the mineral rights to an additional 790,000 acres of the nearly 5.5 million acres originally granted to California by the Congress in 1853 to benefit public education. Today, revenues generated from school lands benefit California's retired teachers.
    Various specialized divisions manage the disparate duties and functions of the Commission. These divisions have changed and exchanged names and functions informally throughout the course of the Commission's existence. An executive office serves as an administrative intermediary to order and organize the various divisions and facilitate communication within the Commission. Divisions have included Environmental Planning and Management, Land Management, Land Use Planning, Legal, Marine Facilities, Mineral Resources, and Research and Planning, and various others with similar name derivatives. The current (2011) divisions are described hereunder.
    The Division of Environmental Planning and Management (DEPM) was organized in 1975 to ensure CSLC compliance with the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and to provide policy and technical staff services to the members of the Commission, its Executive Officer and the line programs. Some of the functions of this Division are to: develop, coordinate and implement the Commission's extensive environmental programs, to coordinate the review of and prepare comments on environmental documents, to serve as the liaison and representative of the Commission to related environmental governing bodies, and to respond to information or program requests of the Commission or other public agencies and conduct research in response to legislation. The Land Management Division (LMD) has primary responsibility for the identification, location, and evaluation of the state's interest in the management of surface lands including sovereign and school lands, its leasing, and management. The duties and responsibilities of the Marine Facilities Division (MFD), created in 1990, are based in the authority of the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act of 1990. The 1989 Exxon Valdez and the 1990 American Trader crude oil spills led to the development and subsequent passage of the Act. The Mineral Resources Management Division (MRMD) manages any extractive development of mineral resources that are located on state lands including oil, gas, geothermal and mineral leases of state-owned lands. Chapter 1138 of the 1978 Statutes made substantial changes relating to the leasing, exploration and development of geothermal resources from state-owned lands and resulted in a program of sequential leasing by competitive bidding. The Division's objectives are to efficiently develop these resources consistent with public safety consideration and environmental protections, while maximizing the revenue generated from the extractive activities in accordance with the best interests of the State.
    As of 2010, the Commission is supported by a staff of more than 200 in Long Beach and Sacramento, including specialists in mineral resources, land management, boundary determination, structural engineering, natural sciences, safety management, marine terminal operations and oil spill prevention.

    Scope and Content

    The California State Lands Commission Records consist of 43 cubic feet of textual records with selected photographs and maps interfiled reflecting the Commission's management and supervision of California's state owned lands. There are 0.25 cubic feet of VHS Video tapes and 0.25 cubic feet of additional audio visual material including floppy disks, photographic slides, and negatives that have been separated from various series and removed to the cold storage media vaults for preservation purposes. Separation sheets are filed in the respective folders to alert researchers to their existence and location. The records date from 1940-2000 and document the work of an agency functioning in the State of California continually for the last seventy-three years and continuing in existence today.
    The records are organized into three series: Correspondence, Geographical File Index, and Environmental Impact Reports. The records are further organized into four subgroups: Executive Office, Environmental Planning and Management, Land Use Planning, and Research and Planning. Records at the State Archives are arranged hierarchically according to the records creator and are therefore organized into numerous subgroups based on the division which transferred the records. Certain records of the Commission's meetings from the 1965 are digitized and available on the agency's website under the "Information" tab. In addition, other recent documents and reports can also be accessed on their website (www.slc.ca.gov). It should also be noted that the California State Archives has not received records from every division during the agency's existence and that the State Lands Commission continues to maintain many of their records in house. The State Archives anticipates receiving further accruals of records from the commission and researchers are encouraged to search for accessioning records from the commission.
    The records of this agency are useful in tracing the development, protection, preservation, and restoration of the lands, waterways, and resources entrusted to the care of the State Lands Commission. The collection reflects the cooperative nature of the Commission's function in the administration of public lands. The collection therefore includes records generated by the State Lands Commission, the Advisory Commission on Marine and Coastal Resources (CMC), the Public Land Law Review Commission, the Office of Planning and Research, the Department of Finance, Department of Fish and Game, Department of Conservation, and the U.S. Dept. of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and other federal public land offices. In further demonstration of the cooperative and collaborative nature of the Commission's responsibilities, the Chairman of the Commission also serves as a ex-officio, non-voting member of the California Coastal Commission, and the Executive Officer of the Commission is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC); records pertaining to their involvement can be found within this collection. Major topics and projects within the collection relate to oil leasing and offshore geological surveys, the Carquinez Strait, the Sacramento River Greenway, and the Mojave-Kern Pipeline Project.
    The passage of new policies and procedures, as well as new legislation can be traced in the records of the State Lands Commission. Often accidents or abuses spark reaction from Congress and the Commission as in 1969 when Union Oil Company's platform "A" experienced a major oil spill in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel. Numerous pieces of legislation regarding offshore geological surveying and leasing led to widespread changes in leasing policy within CSLC. Continuing efforts in the 1990s, led to judicial settlements with oil companies in anti-trust litigation, new legislation passed to reacquire oil leases, while oil production increased in Long Beach. The planning and implementation of oil spill prevention plans including the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act (Statutes 1990, chapter 1248) are also documented in the Project Files of the Environmental Planning and Management records as well as major projects relating to the Carquinez Strait, the Sacramento River Greenway, and the Mojave-Kern Pipeline Project.
    Documentation relating to various projects reference new technologies such as the Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Concerns documented in correspondence and other files throughout the records evidence the origins of research studies including the California Comprehensive Offshore Resource Study (CCORS), which provides information regarding ocean resources (1987). Organizations such as the California Association of Riparian Parkways (CARP) are often formed as a result of pressing issues regarding certain state lands, in the case of CARP, SLC sought to gain support for AB350 (1992) and its effort to protect greenways in over forty rivers and stream basins from San Diego to Redding. The Commission's efforts to improve their management of the vast and varied state lands in conducting reviews of project proposals and environmental documents is matched by efforts for the continued development of resources.
    When researching environmental and land use history in California the reports, minutes, correspondence, and other materials provide insight about projects and priorities within the Commission itself. The Commission's battle against pollution, oil spills and growing threats to the state's natural and cultural resources are all represented both directly and indirectly in environmental impact reports, policy and legislation, and project documentation and correspondence which were reviewed and created by the Commission in their efforts to effectively manage and protect State Lands and their resources. The records of the Commission detail the consequences and changes in the research and harvesting of offshore oil and resources throughout the last several decades with the administration of oil and gas leases on state lands remaining a principle concern of the Commission. The Commission's far reaching responsibilities in regards to the vast lands under their jurisdiction results in a collection that provides a wide variety of materials related to many different projects. For that reason, appendices were created for the more varied and extensive series to provide the researcher with a box and folder list of the contents in order to focus their search. See series descriptions for references to an appendix.


    Further accruals are expected.

    Related Collections at the California State Archives

    State Land Office Records
    Department of Finance Records
    State Board of Land Commissioners
    Surveyor General Records

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    California. State Lands Commission
    California. State Lands Division
    Public lands California