Learn More About the State Lands Commission

Photo of the Sacramento River (courtesy of Sandra Kreutzburg)

The Commission consists of two Constitutional Officers; the Lieutenant Governor and the State Controller, and the Governor's Director of Finance. Established in 1938, the Commission manages four million acres of tide and submerged lands and the beds of navigable rivers, streams, lakes, bays, estuaries, inlets, and straits. These lands, often referred to as sovereign or public trust lands, stretch from the Klamath River and Goose Lake on the north to the Tijuana Estuary and Colorado River on the south, and from the Pacific Coast three miles offshore on the west to world-famous Lake Tahoe on the east, and includes California’s two longest rivers, the Sacramento and San Joaquin. The Commission also monitors sovereign lands granted in trust to approximately 75 local jurisdictions and administers the mineral rights on lands under the jurisdiction of other agencies. The Commission also manages lands granted by Congress to support public schools.

Photo of the Gerald Desmond Bridge (courtesy of the Port of Long Beach)

The Commission protects and enhances these lands and natural resources by issuing leases for use or development, championing public access, resolving boundaries between public and private lands, and implementing regulatory programs to protect state waters from oil spills and invasive species introductions. Through its actions, the Commission secures and safeguards the public's access rights to waterways and the coastline and preserves irreplaceable natural habitats for wildlife, vegetation, and biological communities.

The Commission also protects state waters from marine invasive species introductions and prevents oil spills by providing the best achievable protection of the marine environment at all marine oil terminals in California and at offshore oil platforms and production facilities.

  • Environmental Planning and Management Division

    The Environmental Planning and Management Division provides policy and technical analysis to the Commission and its Executive Officer, and ensures compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Division prepares Environmental Impact Reports, Mitigated Negative Declarations, and other environmental or public trust documents for land use changes within the Commission's jurisdiction, and routinely comments on CEQA documents prepared by local, state and federal agencies for projects impacting public trust lands and resources.

  • External Affairs Division

    The External Affairs Division manages the Commission's granted lands program and is responsible for ensuring that the Commission is fulfilling its oversight responsibilities over legislatively granted public trust lands. The Division also serves as a resource for grantees, and as part of that, maintains relationships with ports, harbor districts, cities, counties and other municipalities managing granted public trust lands.

    The Division also plans, develops, organizes, directs and coordinates the Commission's state and federal legislative program; and the Division Chief is the Public Information Officer for the Commission. In addition, the Division manages the contents of the Commission's public website and is responsible for coordinating and fulfilling requests under the California Public Records Act.

  • Land Management Division

    The Land Management Division has primary responsibility for the surface management of all sovereign and school lands in California. This includes the identification, location, and evaluation of the state's interest in these lands and their leasing and management. Sovereign lands encompass approximately four million acres and include over 120 rivers and sloughs, 40 lakes, and tidelands and submerged lands along the more than 1,130 miles of coastline and offshore from the ordinary high water mark to three nautical miles offshore. School lands are generally located in the California desert and are what remain of the nearly 5.5 million acres granted to California by Congress in 1853 to benefit public education. The Commission manages the surface and mineral ownership of hundreds of thousands of acres of school lands.

  • Marine Environmental Protection Division

    The Marine Environmental Protection Division regulates and inspects all marine oil terminals in California and bulk oil operations at these terminals to provide the best achievable protection of the public health, safety, and the environment. Inspections are conducted on a daily, biennial, and annual basis and include marine pipeline inspections, review of oil spill prevention requirements, and operational personnel training. The Division also regulates large oceangoing vessels to protect against the introduction of invasive (nonindigenous) species into state waters.

  • Mineral Resources Management Division

    The Mineral Resources Management Division is responsible for the safe and environmentally sound development, regulation, and management of all energy and mineral resources on sovereign and school lands under the jurisdiction of the Commission. These resources include oil, gas, geothermal energy, gold and other solid minerals. In managing the prudent development of these resources, the Division's highest priorities are public safety, environmental protection, and maximizing revenue generation. The Division also provides resource management and engineering support to other state and local agencies. 

    The Division manages energy and mineral resource development and use through approximately 130 oil, gas, geothermal, and mineral leases covering more than 95,000 acres of land on and offshore. These resources are diverse and range from commercially valuable minerals such as oil, natural gas, hard rock minerals, sand, gravel and geothermal steam to unique natural resources such as forests, grazing lands, wetlands, riparian vegetation and fish and wildlife habitat. Many sovereign and school lands also have potential as tide, wave, wind, geothermal and renewable energy development sites.

History of the Commission

The office predating the Commission was created in 1849 by the California Constitution and was known as the Surveyor General. The Surveyor General, a constitutional officer elected by the people, surveyed and mapped the boundaries of state sovereign land, determined the state's mineral resource potential, and determined its agricultural and domestic animal population. The Surveyor General was also the engineer and commissioner of improvements of roads, canals, timber resources, draining of marshes, and irrigation project development. The office was abolished in 1929 and its responsibilities were transferred to the Department of Finance and its Division of State Lands.

In 1937, serious irregularities surfaced regarding the execution of a boundary line agreement in Malibu, settlement of trespass litigation that had been brought against Union Oil, and the issuance of permits for oil drilling in Huntington Beach. A Division Chief and Petroleum Production Inspector were charged and dismissed from state service by the Personnel Board. The necessity of an independent commission that makes its decisions in public was made apparent by the behavior of these individuals. Because of this malfeasance and the significant controversy surrounding the state's management and development of its oil and gas resources, and because of a desire to create a high level and autonomous board to make its decisions in a public forum, the State Lands Act was established in 1938 and the California State Lands Commission was created. The Commission was created as an independent body consisting of three members.

Since 1938, the Commission has consisted of these same members: the Lieutenant Governor, the State Controller, and the Governor's Director of Finance. The combination of the two principal financial officers of the state with two statewide elected officials ensures that decisions made by the Commission are fiscally sound and in the best interests of the state. Public awareness and participation is assured because Commission actions occur at properly noticed public meetings.

Mission and Vision

  • Mission Statement
    The California State Lands Commission provides the people of California with effective stewardship of the lands, waterways, and resources entrusted to its care through preservation, restoration, enhancement, responsible economic development, and the promotion of public access.
  • Vision Statement
    The California State Lands Commission is a recognized leader that champions environmentally sustainable public land management and balanced resource protection for the benefit and enjoyment of all current and future generations of Californians.

Strategic Plan image & Link

Strategic Plan

Division Contacts

Chief, Environmental Planning and Management
Cy Oggins (916) 574-1880

Chief, External Affairs and Legislative Liaison
Sheri Pemberton (916) 574-1800

Chief, Land Management
Brian Bugsch (916) 574-1940

Chief, Marine Environmental Protection
Chris Beckwith (562) 499-6312

Chief, Mineral Resources Management
Marina Voskanian (562) 590-5291