A Guide to the Western States Land Commissioners Association Records, 1950-2008
The Western States Land Commissioners Association (WSLCA) was formed in 1949 by state land commissioners interested in working together to share information and best practices regarding each state’s public lands. States west of the Mississippi, upon statehood, were granted tracts of federal land to be developed, sold or maintained to raise funds for public services, specifically education. The WSLCA coordinates the efforts of state land commissioners, who are responsible for the continued use and maintenance of these public education land trusts in 23 states. The states included at inception were Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. In later years, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arkansas and Mississippi joined the WSLCA. In total, the WSLCA controls 440 million acres of land, second only to the federal government [i].
The WSLCA originated as the Land Commissioners Association (LCA) in 1931, an organization which coordinated state land commissions until it disbanded in 1934. The Taylor Grazing Act of the same year shifted the use of unreserved federal lands in the public domain away from settlement and privatization to open livestock grazing areas, rendering the LCA’s policies and tactics obsolete. After years of addressing the Taylor Act and other federal land use concerns individually, eleven western states chose to revive the LCA in 1949, under the new name WSLCA.
The early leaders of the WSLCA disagreed with “Federal landlordism”[ii], thinking Washington D.C. was too far removed from the day-to-day concerns and budding economies of the western states. The group hoped to unify their concerns and voice them to the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management. Their efforts emphasized the WSLCA’s four main objectives: maximizing assets, evaluating information about resource management policies, developing sound resource management policies, and providing “information, education and assistance to member states and other interested parties”[iii]. At yearly conferences, the group shared best practices related to maximizing the value of their public lands through “mineral and energy development, timber, agricultural production, commercial and residential development, open space, critical wildlife habitat, [and] recreation”[iv]. Resolutions drafted at these conferences aimed to bring to the attention of lawmakers states’ concerns with federal legislation related to land management and environmental policy.
After several years following this approach, in the 1990s the WSLCA increased their involvement with the Eastern Land and Resources Council (ELRC), a sister organization responsible for stewardship of the public lands east of the Mississippi, frequently holding joint biannual meetings together throughout 1990s. They also took steps to modernize and promote their organization to a larger audience by creating a website in 1997. In years since, the WSLCA has remained an active organization, engaged in influencing public policy relating to state control of public land management.
[i] Western States Land Commissioners Association. Texas General Land Office, n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 2014. [ii] Western States Land Commissioners Association. Texas General Land Office, n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 2014. [iii] Clement Jr., Laurence A. Taylor Grazing Act. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2011. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. [iv] Opp, Kathy. Testimony Presented to the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Oversight Hearing. 10 Sept. 2013. Web. PDF file.
The WSLCA focused on promoting their constituent states’ concerns, most frequently as they related to federal policy, but also as they related to proper environmental stewardship and sound land management.The WSLCA collection consists of correspondence, resolutions, directories, budgets, agendas, newspaper clippings, and photographs from conferences, executive meetings and general day-to-day business from 1950 through 2008, with the bulk of the material dating from 1977-1999.
The Records of Annual Meetings series consists of transcripts of annual WSLCA meetings from 1950 - 1954, 1957, 1977 and 1980. There is also a conference program for the 1980 annual meeting. This series includes information about each year’s annual meeting, specifically officers, lists of attendees, the program, record of proceedings, speakers - sometimes with copies of the speeches - floor discussion, resolutions, state land acreage tables and government organizational charts.
The Summaries of Bi-Annual Meetings series consists of meeting summaries dating from 1980 through 1994, with no summaries from 1989. These meeting summaries document recurring proceedings such as opening remarks and roll calls, approval of previous meeting minutes, treasurer’s reports, committee meeting reports, presentations, panel discussions, workshops, legislative updates from Washington D.C. and a list of attachments at the end containing financial statement summaries, resolutions or other exhibitions.
The Resolutions series consists of copies of resolutions written by the leadership of the WSLCA and sent to the US Congress between 1975 to 1996. The topics of the resolutions range from urging federal participation in interstate boundary conflicts to re-examining the mineral character of sand and gravel. In a few instances, the WSLCA has attached a draft of a bill to the resolution.
The series Records Grouped by Month makes up a substantial portion of the collection. These files, ordered chronologically by month and year, date from March 1977 to January 1999. Through correspondence, administrative files, conference materials and proceedings, resolutions, and directories, this series provides evidence of the role the WSLCA association played in coordinating the efforts of the various western state land boards and advocating for various states’ concerns from the 1970s through the 1990s. The series includes records from Garry Mauro, Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office from 1983 to 1999 and John Wilkes III, who was president of the WSLCA in 1991.
The Records Grouped Alphabetically series contains WSLCA administrative documents and publication material produced by the organization during the mid to late 1990s. Records, including newsletters, brochures, and questionnaires, document the association’s administrative structure, membership, conferences, joint meetings, and land exchange regulations. The Director of the Government Liaison’s Office at the Texas General Land Office series includes material related to Leda Roselle, who held the position for the majority of the 1990s. The material includes correspondence, publicity, newsletters, and meeting agenda and conference records from both the WSLCA and the Eastern Lands and Resources Council (ELRC), the WSLCA’s sister organization for the eastern part of the United States. Roselle acted as a liaison between the TGLO and the ELRC and WSLCA.
The State Reports series contains the annual reports for WSLCA member states from 1982 to 1990. However, not every member state is represented within this series. The annual reports provide documentation of the state’s land and natural resource interests, which differ based on geographic region. Some states are represented over a multi-year span, with Oklahoma and New Mexico representing more than half of the series. The Photographs and Scrapbooks series contains photographs and ephemera documenting the social and organizational activities held during WSLCA conferences from the late 1970s through the 1990s. The majority of conference photographs are color film prints that show a range of compositions including portraits and event activities, as well as general landscape shots. The scrapbooks contain photographs of conference proceedings alongside ephemera including ticket stubs and pamphlets. There are also some miscellaneous photographic prints and digital prints taken at conferences.
The General Materials series contains material similar in format and content to the Records Grouped by Month and Records Grouped Alphabetically series listed above, but which cannot be included in either of those series based on available evidence. The records document internal communications and the WSLCA’s efforts to influence federal policy in their various member states’ favor. Materials include correspondence, administrative files, conference materials and proceedings, resolutions, and directories.
Materials may be under copyright protection. US copyright law does allow for reproduction of materials under copyright for uses such as critique, criticism, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, locating copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electronic form.
Collection was transferred to the Texas General Land Office from John Wilkes, III.
[Short title of Document], [Date: Day-Month-Year]. Box [#], Folder [#], p. [#]. Western States Land Commissioners Association Records (AR.169). Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin.
Preliminary processing by Chase Bryant, 2012. Additional processing and finding aid created by Rebecca Pad, Michelle Roell, and Benjamin Houtman, 2014.
Detailed Description of the Collection