The Public Trust Doctrine: New Frontiers for Sustainable Water Resources Management

Summer 2010

ABA Natural Resources & Environment, Vol. 25, No. 1

This article examines the evolution of the public trust doctrine over the past quarter-century by considering developments in five states: Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, California, and Hawaii. These states reflect the variety of approaches to the public trust doctrine, which have largely been driven by water availability and different background legal regimes. The article also attempts to project the future development of the public trust doctrine. The chief task of the next quarter-century will be the need to address the unfinished business of National Audubon Society v. Superior Court: to develop standards and procedures for balancing the various needs of public trust resources against each other, as well as balancing the legitimate demands of consumptive uses of water against the needs of public trust resources in an effort to serve the public interest.