Nevada Court's Public Trust Decision A Welcome Addition to Growing Body of Protection for State Lands and Resources

by Alexandra Klass | August 08, 2011

Last month, the Nevada Supreme Court held in Lawrence v. Clark County that the public trust doctrine limited the ability of the state to freely alienate certain lands that, though dry at the time of the decision, were submerged under navigable waters at the time of statehood. The case is significant for at least two reasons. First, the court made clear that the public trust doctrine in Nevada places inherent limitations on state power and cannot be easily abrogated by state legislation, thus protecting state resources for present and future generations from the politics of the day. Second, the court clearly grounded its protection for such resources in what I have referred to in earlier scholarship as “ public trust principles.” These public trust principles derive not solely from the common law doctrine but are based on a combination of common law, state constitutional provisions, and statutory provisions that can work in tandem to protect and preserve public trust resources for present and future generations. While courts often rely solely on the common law, state constitutional provisions, or state statutes to protect public trust resources, Nevada joins a small but growing group of state courts that have expressly based public trust decisions on the combination of these authorities and have recognized how they are interrelated. 

As background, as I discussed in an earlier post, the public trust doctrine is a concept dating back to Roman Law which holds that there are certain ...

Will the Atmosphere Make it as the Public Trust Doctrine's Next Frontier?

by Alexandra Klass | May 06, 2011
On Wednesday, Our Children's Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit, made headlines when it began filing lawsuits on behalf of children against all 50 states and several federal agencies alleging that these governmental entities have violated the common law public trust doctrine by failing to limit greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.  The claims seek judicial declaration that states have a fiduciary duty to future generations with regard to an “atmospheric trust” and that states and the federal government must ...

CPR Releases Manual on Water Resources and the Public Trust Doctrine

by Ben Somberg | September 29, 2009
Much of the battle to preserve and protect water resources happens at the state and local levels – in any number of policy choices advocated and made by individuals, organizations, companies, and governments. In recent years, water activists have begun to deploy a new tool geared to shape these decisions. Long-established in legal jurisprudence, the public trust doctrine holds that certain natural resources belong to all and cannot be privately owned or controlled because of their intrinsic value to each ...

Protecting the Invisible: The Public Trust Doctrine and Groundwater

by Yee Huang | July 24, 2009
This is the fourth and final post on the application of the public trust doctrine to water resources, based on a forthcoming CPR publication, Restoring the Trust: Water Resources and the Public Trust Doctrine, A Manual for Advocates, which will be released this summer.  If you are interested in attending a free web-based seminar on Thursday, July 30, at 3:00 pm EDT, please contact CPR Policy Analyst Yee Huang or register here.  Prior posts are available here. Groundwater, invisible as ...

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