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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


September-October 2010

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Reinvigorating the Public Trust Doctrine: Expert Opinion on the Potential of a Public Trust Mandate in U.S. and International Environmental Law

Upon independence from Britain, public lands and waters and a law that would become a foundational principle of American natural resources policy became vested in the nascent state governments. Under the public trust doctrine (PTD), state governments must manage and protect certain natural resources for the sole benefit of their citizens, both current and future. This principle has been enforced in courts, canonized in state constitutions, and is at the heart of many states' fisheries, wildlife, and water laws. Suggesting that “[p]ublic trust law lies in the deep background of most environmental cases, and at the cutting edge of many,” some scholars have gone so far as to call the PTD the “conceptual and spiritual compass” of environmental law.1 Today, there are 50 state PTDs, intimations of a federal PTD, and the doctrine has also increasingly appeared in legal systems outside of the United States.

Mary Turnipseed is a Ph.D. student in ecology at Duke University and has written previously in Science and in Ecology Law Quarterly on the ecological justifications for and legal considerations of extending the PTD to all U.S. ocean waters.

Raphael Sagarin, an Assistant Research Scientist at University of Arizona's Institute of the Environment, is a marine ecologist and U.S. ocean policy expert who has published in Science and Foreign Policy and is co-editor of Natural Security: A Darwinian Approach to a Dangerous World.

Peter Barnes, who is with the Tomales Bay Institute at Point Reyes Station, California, is author or co-author of 5 books and a senior fellow at the non-profit organization On The Commons.

Michael C. Blumm is a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School and author or co-author of 5 books and nearly 100 articles on natural resources law.

Patrick Parenteau formerly served as regional counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency, Region I, and Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation; he currently is senior counsel for the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School, where he is also a professor.

Peter H. Sand formerly served as a legal advisor for the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank, has authored 3 books and over 100 articles on international environmental law and governance, and is currently a lecturer in international environmental law at the University of Munich, Germany.

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