School Lands

Gunsight Mine east of Tecopa, CA. Photo credit: Commission staff, Joseph Fabel




Drew Simpkin
Public Land Management Specialist

School Lands were granted to the State of California on March 3, 1853 by an Act of Congress (Ch. 145, 10 Stat. 244) for the purpose of supporting public schools. These lands consisted of the 16th and 36th sections of land in each township, save lands reserved for other public purposes, lands previously conveyed, e.g., rancho lands, sovereign lands, and swamp or overflowed lands, and lands known to be mineral in character. A supplementary act in 1927 expanded the grant to include minerals (Ch. 57, 44 Stat. 1026). No federal patents to the State were required under the grant; title to the lands was vested in the State upon approval of the U.S. Township Survey Plats.

Following is a list of counties where there are no school lands. It is intended as a guide only. Parcels may be added or deleted at any time via an exchange, in lieu selection, or survey of previously unsurveyed townships. Questions regarding the current status of specific parcels should be directed to Jim Porter in the Land Management Division. 

There are no school lands in Alameda, Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Kings, Marin, Merced, Orange, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sierra, Solano, Stanislaus, Sutter, Ventura, and Yolo Counties.

Indemnity School Lands (also known as lieu lands)

When a Section 16 or Section 36 was not granted to California because of an exception, the State was given the opportunity to select replacement lands from the United States (Ch. 81 19 Stat. 267). Each transaction involved several steps. First, the State filed a list with the federal government describing the lands lost, which were known as base lands. Second, the State filed a list with the federal government describing other federal lands selected in place of the base lands. When the federal government approved replacement lands, it issued the State a Clear List. California’s rights to the base lands were relinquished back to the federal government and title to the selected lands became vested in the State. The Clear List was the document of conveyance; no patents were issued by the federal government.

School Lands annual reports

Below are links to the School Lands annual reports.