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Public Trust Doctrine

The Public Trust Doctrine dates to the Roman Empire. In short, the Public Trust Doctrine is the principle that the state holds the land lying beneath public waters as trustee for the benefit of all citizens.  As trustee, the state is responsible for proper management of the resource to ensure the preservation and protection of all appropriate current and potential future uses, including potentially conflicting uses, by the public.

Virginia Marine Resources Commission Subaqueous Guidelines

The Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) is an ancient llegal concept that is incorporated in U.S. law, but rarely invoked outside of the coastal zone. In its most basic form, the PTD obliges governments to manage common natural resources in the best interest of their citizens, both current and future. Historically the doctrine has protected the public’s rights to fishing, navigation, and commerce over and in navigable waterways and tidal waters. Today it is a state-focused legal doctrine that has been integral to the protection of some coastal ecosystems and ecosystem services in many states.

Recommended References
See the books listed below for more in-depth information regarding the Public Trust Doctrine.

The Public Trust Doctrine In Motion by David C. Slade

Putting the Public Trust Doctrine to Work (1997) by Coastal States Organization


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