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Natural Resources Law
University of Connecticut School of Law
Strasser, Kurt A.

Natural Resources Law Outline
I.                   Overview / Introductory Material
a.      The Tragedy of the Commons – Garrett Hardin, 1968
                                                               i.      When a resources is open to exploitation by all, individually beneficial actions lead to destruction of the common resource
                                                             ii.      Two possible solutions:
1.      Private ownership
2.      Government regulation of common areas
                                                            iii.      The tragedy of fragmentation
1.      When critical habitat is privately owned in small parcels no individual owner will be able to develop a viable conservation plan
2.      Bioregionalism (region defined by similar naturally occurring characteristics) may be an answer
b.      What is a natural resource?
                                                               i.      In Re Tortorelli (2003)
1.      Adopts dictionary definition of “materials supplied by nature
2.      Constitution grants States ownership of stream & lake beds
3.      Equal footing doctrine grants this ownership to newer states
                                                             ii.      Paige v. Fairfield (1995)
1.      Lower court had adopted a definition of natural resources that required “economic value”
2.      CT Supreme Court rejected the “economic value” test, trees and wildlife are natural resources regardless of economic value
c.      Conservation
                                                               i.      Utilitarianism
1.      Focus is on using natural resources in a profitable, but sustainable manner
2.      Championed by Giford Pinchot in the Progressive Era
3.      Focus on scientific management
4.      Current example: U.S. Forests
d.      Preservation
                                                               i.      Focus is on saving wild nature
                                                             ii.      Championed by John Muir and the Sierra Club
                                                            iii.      Current example: U.S. National Parks
e.      Public Trust Doctrine (Overview)
                                                               i.      Natural resources are held in a trust for the benefit of humankind
                                                             ii.      Trustee has a fiduciary duty to beneficiaries
                                                            iii.      Inter-generational equity: future generation have equal rights to natural resources as the current generation
                                                           iv.      Some argue that Trust metaphor is inadequate because it gives the current “trustees” too much discretion to sell or exploit natural resources in the name of economic development that will benefit future generations
II.                The Public Trust Doctrine
a.      Test for

.      Will not result in any substantial impairment of the public interest in the lands and waters remaining
c.      Submerged Lands
                                                               i.      The Daniel Ball (1870)
1.      For Commerce Clause purposes, the federal government may regulate rivers that are “navigable in fact” which means they are used or are capable of being used as “highways for commerce” between states or foreign countries.
2.      Even and intra-state route on a river that runs between states is subject to federal regulation
3.      Rejects old English rule which defined navigability as influenced by the tide
                                                             ii.      Utah v. United States (1971)
1.      Whether a State owns the bed of a waterway depends on whether the waterway was navigable at the time of admission into the Union.
a.       If navigable then the State holds title under the Equal Footing Doctrine
b.      If non-navigable then ownership is determined by state law and private ownership is possible
Test: Whether the lake was physically capable of being used in its ordinary condition as a highway for floating and affording passage to