What the Public Trust Doctrine Can Teach Us About the Police Power, Penn Central, and the Public Interest in Natural Resource Regulation: A Tribute to Joe Sax
41 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2014 Last revised: 3 Jun 2015
Date Written: June 2, 2015
One of Joseph Sax’s recurring scholarly concerns was how to effectuate and preserve the substantial and long-term public interest in natural resources, and he was drawn to the public trust doctrine in part because that doctrine explicitly recognizes that public rights in those resources, particularly water, do exist. Following in Sax’s tradition, this Article argues that the public trust doctrine can serve to illuminate structural and analytical problems with regulatory takings doctrine, which has had a much more difficult time acknowledging the role of public rights. In particular, while governments do sometimes directly represent the rights of the Public — under the public trust doctrine, for example, as the trustee of submerged lands and as protector of the Public’s right of navigation — the Penn Central takings analysis both overdeterminedly conflates government action with the public interest, eliding the fact that the private property owner is also a member of the Public who benefits from government action, and denies the Public its full independent status as a third interest-holder in any property rights analysis. Using examples from water law, coastal land use regulation, and fisheries management, this Article argues that regulatory takings doctrine unnecessarily impedes the urgent need for property law to evolve to meet the demands of a post-exploitation United States and that the Public and communitarian approach on property rights that the public trust doctrine offers presents a much more useful perspective on property rights for our changing future.
Keywords: public trust doctrine, regulatory takings, constitutional takings, Joseph Sax, water rights, water law, fisheries, fish, ocean
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