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Property rights and the public trust doctrine in environmental protection and natural resource conservation

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  • Brewer, Jedidiah
  • Libecap, Gary D.
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    Abstract

    We examine the implications of the public trust doctrine in natural resource protection and conservation. A model of litigation and settlement among disputing parties suggests that the public trust doctrine introduces more costs and is more time consuming than would be the case with alternative approaches, such as the purchase of private rights through market transactions or application of eminent domain powers to reallocate the resource. Because the doctrine allows for uncompensated redistribution, it is resisted by current resource owners. Furthermore, by providing open standing to members of the public in challenging existing uses, public trust disputes encourage excessive demands, increasing the incidence of trial over settlement. This outcome is exacerbated if the plaintiffs derive utility from the ‘cause’ and provide litigation services at below-market rates, leading to greater investment in litigation. The costs of the public trust doctrine appear to have limited its application beyond the level anticipated by proponents. We present a case study of Mono Lake, part of the well-known 1983 litigation, National Audubon v. Superior Court to illustrate our arguments.

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    File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/161908
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society in its journal Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

    Volume (Year): 53 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 1 (March)
    Pages:

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    Handle: RePEc:ags:aareaj:161908

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    Postal: AARES Central Office Manager, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU, Canberra ACT 0200
    Phone: 0409 032 338
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    Web page: http://www.aares.info
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    Related research

    Keywords: property rights; public trust doctrine; trial settlement.; Environmental Economics and Policy; Resource /Energy Economics and Policy;

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    1. Cooter, Robert D & Rubinfeld, Daniel L, 1989. "Economic Analysis of Legal Disputes and Their Resolution," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 1067-97, September.
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    Cited by:
    1. R. Quentin Grafton & Clay Landry & Gary D. Libecap & Sam McGlennon & Bob O’Brien, 2010. "An Integrated Assessment of Water Markets: Australia, Chile, China, South Africa and the USA," ICER Working Papers 32-2010, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
    2. Gary D. Libecap & R. Quentin Grafton & Clay Landry & J.R. O’Brien, 2009. "Markets - Water Markets: Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin and the US Southwest," ICER Working Papers 15-2009, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.

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