Friday, November 15, 2013

Cornell Kicks Off Analysis of Public Trust Doctrine

This from the Wildlife Management Institute:

Cornell Kicks Off Analysis of Public Trust Doctrine PDF Print E-mail
Wildlife Management Institute Western Field Representative, Chris Smith, shared thoughts on the implications of the Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) for state fish and wildlife agencies, kicking off an in-depth analysis of the PTD sponsored by Polson Institute for Global Development at Cornell University. Smith’s presentation, hosted by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, was the first in a series of discussions through which practitioners and scholars will explore the opportunities and constraints related to this fundamental element of conservation law. The discussions will culminate in a 3-day workshop in the spring of 2014 designed to contribute to the academic literature, teaching and training related to the PTD, and enhancing application of public trust principles in daily work of resource professionals.

The concept that government holds fish and wildlife in trust for the benefit of current and future generations is explicit in the statutes and constitutions of countries around the world, and is implicit in the norms, customs and governance arrangements of many more. In 1842, the United States Supreme Court articulated this legal duty as the Public Trust Doctrine. Interest is increasing among scholars and natural resource management professionals in the potential for PTD to meet persistent and emergent challenges in natural resource conservation and governance. However, the specific questions that public trust doctrine is able to address and the challenges for implementation have not been fully examined. Concerns have also been expressed about the PTD’s current ability to affect conservation outcomes.

Cornell University professors Dan Decker, Bernd Blossey, and Charles Geisler along with PhD student Darragh Hare have organized a multi-disciplinary “reading group” that will meet six times to analyze the literature and application of the PTD. Academic participants come from Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources, Department of Development Sociology and Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. To ground the analysis of the PTD in real world issues, the organizers have invited participants from several state and federal agencies to join the discussions. Dr. Decker said the objective of the effort is “to explore the promise and limitations of public trust thinking as a basis for policy leading to sustainability of natural resources and the principles of natural resource practice that will guide effective management.” (cs)


  1. I write the Madravenspeak living wildlife column for the Capital Times out of Madison, Wisconsin, going up against decades of killing advocacy propaganda of the "outdoors pages" of the state newspapers. There had been no balanced reporting from the point of view of 90% of us who do not kill wildlife to dispel that propaganda and minority rationale.

    Academic dalliance is nice but we have seen that at the COP 19 where special interests coal and big oil are lobbying to destroy any progress away from their profits and destruction.

    Killing licenses are the dominant funding mechanism of state agencies. Money corrupts absolutely throughout our government. Until we do away with special interest licenses, and fund state agencies with general public funds REPLACING killing licenses, we will have maximum killing and maximum and increasing cruelty. The use of packs of dogs on wildlife, the expansion of bow-hunting and the crossbow, the lengthening of "seasons", unlimited trapping using snares, medieval steel jaw traps, conibear suffocation killing devices, and more and more species killed, including endangered species, like the wolves who were de-listed in a political maneuver - this is the result of the long term corruption against democracy for exploitation of our natural world for the few.

    Where has the academic community been? The scientists? This is very late in the game. If you google "mass extinction underway" you come up with warnings by the larger scientific community here:

    But our United States, state by state, ignore science to serve up more and more death and killing to an organized minority. Here in Wisconsin it is the NRA, Farm Bureau and coalition of killing clubs under one coalition - the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. Even the most progressive legislators give them anything they want including packs of dogs on endangered wolves.

    "Fair chase" was harvested with the old frontier and we have torture, gut-shooting, bludgeoning animals helpless in traps by the millions per state - and coyotes hung in trees for fun. Teaching kids to kill for fun.

    My 78 columns so far are archived on the Capital Times web site here:

    I will be following your progress and trust you will act quickly and recognize that the money is at the core of the corruption along with the stacked deck of Natural Resource Board hunter activists.

    I will be following your progress with interest. Don't take too long. We cannot genetically engineer and clone complex ecosystems being devastated in this massive human caused extinction. We are at tipping points beyond which we ourselves are at risk. It seems to be what it takes.

  2. Patricia,
    Thanks for weighing in. I suspect we look at nature and wildlife from very different philosophy's.
    Based on evolutionary history and anthropology, I believe humans are part of nature. We are omnivors just like other plant/meat eaters in nature. the difference being we have evolved as very clever and effective tool using hunters/gatherers. So much so we need to control ourselve or we will over kill our wild bretheren. In the last 100 years with game species we have developed the North American Model of Wildlife Management (yes based on hunter funding) that has been very successful in improving wild game health and numbers. No other model in the world is as successful.
    To throw this out for one that puts humans outside of nature seems to me to be irresponsible and ultimately dooming wildlife and wild places.

  3. your states' wildlife biologists are cast and character as the most hard-working and dedicated group of wildlife conservationists in existence - I know b/c that's why I chose to be one, as a scientist. my salary is paid by hunters. I am a hunter b/c I like meat, and I prefer to be a locavore, eating healthy venison and fish. It is what it is. Humans have made a big impact on this planet, and we use hunting licenses to manage our impact on game animals. Those that don't like it should put their money where their mouth is. Join the Teaming With Wildlife coalitions for broad-based funding of wildlife conservation at national and state levels. Your state agency holds your wildlife in public trust for the people, and we have been fighting for broad-based funding for a couple decades now - only 2 have succeeded. As always, kudos to the hunters for footing the bill for 76 years now.

  4. Does anybody know who is on the panel? I've seen some pretty top notch legal summaries of the PTD before while the topic was in question a few years ago when a Vermont farmer wanted to sell captive white-tailed deer and moose hunts. I remember being in the F&W Board meeting when a liaison from the gov's office told us all that the issue was resolved and Dept of Ag would have jurisdiction - i remeber thinking "lady, you are about to awake a sleeping giant", and that's just what happened. TWS sent a letter to each and every state legislator, and sportstman groups rose up too if i recall correctly. I hope this group recognizes that event because the outcome was important. I think even Texas has taken a stand against WTD breeders at one point. It's an awfullly big business to take on, and they are full of propaganda. I also recall hearing Dr. Deer from Texas called as an expert witness in a legislative hearing and how he said that CWD was like climate change, fabricated by university researchers to get grant $s. We're supposed to ignore the fact that it travels at 65 MPH down our state and federal highways under the cover of darkness.

    Incidentally, there's an article in the Dec 2013 issue of the Wildlife Society Bulletin about how deer densities can impact songbird diversity in Delaware. This is the type of thing that i think the working group in NE-TWS might need to consider, and it absolutely ties back into the PTD and the States' responsibilities as trust-resource managers. I'd like to know if this working group out of Cornell is to consider federal ESA issues too, particularly as it might apply to states' consitutional authorities for managing their own assets....won't dealve too deeply into that arena. Shawn

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