Litigation is taking California’s public trust doctrine from the waterfront to the forefront

“California courts have long recognized the state’s duty to protect its tidelands, navigable waterways, and submerged lands (i.e., the land below the high tideline) under the common law public trust doctrine. However, California’s public trust doctrine has operated more as a background principle, than an independent force of law for most of its history — even after the seminal National Audubon Society v. Superior Court.

In the five years since ELF, the courts have seen a growing number of cases alleging that cities, counties, or other trustee agencies failed to consider the indirect impacts of their decisions on the public trust uses or values. These cases have included challenges to certain land developments, as well as administration of surface and ground waters. Thus far, no court has clearly delineated what indirect effects trigger an agency’s duty to consider and protect the public trust when administering non-trust resources.” [Read More]