President Birdwell Welcome from President Harry Birdwell

The Western States Land Commissioners Association is a non-profit consortium of Administrators of State-owned Trust Lands totaling more than 500 million acres of public and school trust lands in 21 western states.

WSLCA’s services and activities assist states to manage assets that help to fund public education.

The combined holdings of the WSLCA member states represent the second largest owner of land and minerals in the United States, second only to the federal government. We are proud that the vast resources entrusted to our care continue to provide billions of dollars each year in support of public education in America.

Strategic Plan


As an incident of statehood, most states west of the Mississippi River received grants of federal land (see below) to assist in the funding of public education facilities and other governmental programs. Known as school lands, trust lands or grant lands, these properties were scattered throughout the various states.

The grants by which the states were given the public lands are solemn trusts. These trusts provide that proceeds from sale or use of the land be applied specifically to education and other various purposes. Thus, these lands may not be used without compensation to the state. These lands are managed by state agencies called land offices, land commissions or land boards - collectively identified as commission. Five are headed by statewide elected officials. Most commissioners also manage lands under navigable waterways to protect resources and produce revenue. Some land commissioners also act as the fire prevention and control agency for their state. WSLCA was founded in 1949 in response to a need for more coordinated management of federal and state trust lands. As early as 1935, western state land commissioners recognized that, without establishing formal and unified relations with the Department of the Interior and other federal agencies, inconsistent and uncoordinated management of public lands would continue.

Agreements / MOUs

» Bureau of Land Management MOU - 2012

» Forest Service MOU

Land Grants

The General Land Ordinance of 1785 reserved section 16 in each township "for the maintenance of public schools within the said township" (see Figure below). The land grant system has not been static. As new states were added, the size of the grants to the schools was increased, grants to universities and other institutions were added and the nature of the grants was refined. For example, Montana received Sections 16 and 36 at statehood, whereas Utah received Sections 2, 16, 32, and 36 at statehood.

The word township is a measure of units north or south of the baseline, but it is also the term for each square on the grid. Each township is 6 miles by 6 miles. The township is further divided into 36 sections, each a single square mile. As you can see, sections are numbered in way that can be confusing. Section 1 is in the northeast corner of the township and the digits run in a zig-zag pattern down to the southeast corner.

For example, if this is the same township that Enumclaw occupies, then the dark square at left is Section 29, Township 20 North, Range 6 East (Sec. 29, T. 20 N., R.6.E.).

» Download Federal Granted Trusts .pdf

Objectives, Bylaws & Policies

The Association's objectives are:

  • to maximize the earnings and preserve the assets of the member states' educational trusts and encourage prudent administration of those trusts;

  • to acquire and evaluate information regarding public land, water and resource management policies;

  • to develop prudent public land and water management policies; and

  • to provide information, education, and assistance concerning the foregoing to the member states and interested parties.


» Association Bylaws July 2017

» Financial and Organizational Audit Policy Adopted October 6 2014

» WSLCA Logo Usage Guidelines

Types of Land Managed

State land managers deal with three primary administrative responsibilities:

    1. School trust lands - Most western states received grants of federal land when they became states. These land grants were given to the states to generate income for public education and other state programs. States are required by law to use school trust lands for those purposes.
    2. Sovereign lands - State land managers administer lands that lie below the ordinary high water mark of navigable lakes and rivers. These lands are managed for the protection of navigation, commerce, fish and wildlife habitat, aquatic beauty, public recreation, and water quality. Leases of these lands are a source of revenue.
    3. Fire control - Some state land managers are responsible for prevention and control of wildfire on state and private lands.