The Public Trust Doctrine

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The Public Trust Doctrine is an agreement between the public and the government. The government’s duty is to hold and manage wildlife, fish, and waterways for its resources and the public. The Public Trust Doctrine is also recognized as the foundation for the “North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.” This model is viewed as an important concept of the law, policy and scientific research that has led to the protection, conservation and restoration of resources in the United States. The core of the Public Trust Doctrine is the concept that the law treats resources as public commons that belong to all and cannot be privately owned. A trust is a collection of assets entrusted to one to be managed or cared for in the interest of another. …show more content…
The government must be held accountable for its actions because they are managing publicly owned assets. The public, as beneficiary of the trust, have the legal rights and responsibility to enforce accountability upon its government. Accountability is typically enforced through litigation however it can also be enforced through elections or ballot initiatives. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation has seven distinctive components, (1) Wildlife are a public trust resource (2) Elimination of markets for wildlife (3) Allocation of wildlife by law (5) Wildlife can only be killed for a legitimate purpose (5) Wildlife are considered an international resource (6) Science is the proper tool for discharge of wildlife policy and (7) Democracy of hunting. The Public Trust Doctrine also provides special protection to tidelands and other navigable waterways. A famous public trust doctrine case, Illinois Central Railroad Company v. Illinois in 1869 granted over 1000 areas underlying Lake Michigan to the Illinois Central Railroad Company for harbor and commercial development. The state changed their mind and sued to invalidate the …show more content…
Efforts to expand the public trust doctrine have often been controversial. An example is when the Idaho Supreme Court tried to apply the public trust doctrine to water diversions. Idaho legislature then passed a law prohibiting the courts from applying the Public Trust Doctrine to water rights or withdrawals. Some argue that the courts should use the Public Trust Doctrine more aggressively to protect environmental resources. They fear that developers and other commercial interests enjoy undue influence in many state legislatures. They also argue that the Public Trust Doctrine is essential to safeguard the public’s interest in preservation. And it should apply today as a shield against threats to national parks, forests, wetlands, wildlife and other environmental resources. However courts have shown minimal interest in extending the public trust doctrine beyond its traditional setting, although the federal court suggested in the 1970s that national parks are subject to common-law public

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