The Commission serves the people of California by providing stewardship of the lands, waterways, and resources entrusted to its care through economic development, protection, preservation, and restoration of those lands and resources. Diligent execution of these responsibilities since its inception in 1938 has resulted in the generation of over $11 billion in revenues while protecting and enhancing the public's ability to enjoy those lands and resources.
Consisting of the Lieutenant Governor, the State Controller, and the Governor's Director of Finance, the State Lands Commission serves as a trustee for the people of the state, managing California's sovereign public trust lands and resources, which the state received upon admission into the Union in 1850. It also manages other lands subsequently conveyed to the state by the federal government (commonly known as "school" lands) and oversees the management of public trust lands legislatively granted in trust to over 70 local jurisdictions. These grants encourage development and use of the state's tidelands consistent with the public trust doctrine, and typically require grantees to reinvest revenues produced from the granted lands back into the trust.
Public trust or "sovereign" lands include the beds of all natural and navigable waterways, including non-tidal rivers, streams and lakes, and tide and submerged lands within tidal rivers, sloughs, bays and the Pacific Ocean extending from the mean high tide line seaward to the three-mile offshore limit totaling over four and one-half million acres. In addition to sovereign lands, the Commission manages "school" lands, which were granted to California the State of California by the federal government under the Act of March 3, 1853 (10 Stat. 244) for the purpose of supporting public education in California. They include the 16th and 36th sections of each township (with the exception of lands already reserved for public use or taken by private claims) and lands known to be mineral in character. Of the five and one-half million acres of school lands originally granted to the state, only about 462,890 acres remain in state ownership and these are mostly concentrated in the California desert. The Commission also retains a reserved mineral interest in approximately 790,000 acres of sold school lands.