The public trust doctrine in 1985

by Molly Selvin

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This paper, originally written as a preface for the 1986 publication of the author's dissertation by Garland Publications, reviews developments in public trust litigation during the time since the dissertation was completed in 1978. The public trust doctrine states that tidelands and certain other lands and waters are held in trust by the citizens of the various sovereign states and municipalities, to be used only for the benefit of the general public. Recent trust litigation has focused, as before, on water-related resources including tidelands, beaches, lakes, and streams. Nonetheless, state courts have rendered several significant decisions during the past seven years, largely in California and New Jersey, expanding and in some instances limiting permissible trust uses of and trusteeship responsibilities over traditional trust properties, and extending the reach of the doctrine to resources not previously clothed with trust protections.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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