The federal government manages and controls nearly half of the territory of California – about 46%. Most of this land is controlled by the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Parks Service. The Department of Defense also maintains several properties in California. But these lands do not belong to the federal government – they belong to the people of California.
In reality, the situation is much more complex. In the 1960s, the federal government published its “Inventory Report on Jurisdictional Status of Federal Areas Within the United States,” the title of which alone speaks volumes: federal lands are not owned by the federal government. There are questions of jurisdiction, and different types of jurisdiction delegated to the federal government to exercise on these properties, and some jurisdictions reserved by the states. The same is true in California – the California state government maintains jurisdiction on many of the federal lands in our state.
Constitutional secession from the United States will inevitably involve a treaty between California and the United States in which many issues will be ironed out – and federal lands in California will be retroceded back to California.
One thing we could do is to turn the lands currently managed by the National Parks Service to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, also known as California State Parks. Federal lands in California currently under the management of the United States Forest Service could be turned over to the management of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, a government agency dedicated to the fire protection and stewardship of over 31 million acres of California’s privately-owned wildlands. Meanwhile, other lands currently under the management of the Bureau of Land Management could be turned over to the California State Lands Commission.
The point here being that there are already-existing state agencies performing the same functions as the federal agencies that manage almost half of the territory in California. Their zones of control and management could be greatly expanded (with appropriate budget increases), and would probably do a better job of taking care of California than the Americans.
Between these three agencies, that accounts for about 95% of the federal lands in California – the remaining belonging mostly to the Department of Defense. These lands could remain in American hands under military base agreements and/or turned over to the California Military Department.