Trust doctrines derive from real property law along with concepts from trusts such as trustee and beneficiary relationships. In a trust doctrine setting, the state is the trustee who holds legal title to certain submerged land and natural resources in trust for the benefit of their citizens, the beneficiaries.
When citizens are denied public use of certain lands covered under the doctrine, their rights may be violated. If the state is not maintaining their submerged lands and natural resources, public trust proponents may sue the state. An example of a public trust is the navigable waters that the government holds title to. Under this trust, any use of land under the water must be used to benefit the public.
Traditionally speaking this ages old doctrine was strictly applied to submerged lands within navigable waters. This typically affected water-related commerce, navigation by boat and fishing practices. Recently however this doctrine has been expanded to embrace concepts such as using the waters for swimming, recreation, bathing and boating practices. The idea behind changes over time is that the public’s needs change, and therefore public resources occasionally need to be reevaluated.
A qualified trust doctrine attorney will be able to assist with the following:
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