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Oregon’s Public Trust Doctrine: Public Rights in Waters, Wildlife, and Beaches

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Abstract

Oregon’s public trust doctrine has been misunderstood. The doctrine has not been judicially interpreted in over thirty years but was the subject of an Oregon Attorney General’s opinion in 2005. That opinion interpreted the scope of the doctrine to be limited to the beds of tidelands and navigable-for-title waters and erected a separate “public use” doctrine protecting public rights in other waters, including recreational waters. However, since Oregon courts have never limited public rights in the state’s waters to those with publicly owned bedlands, the opinion should have recognized that the public trust doctrine provides broad public recreational rights in all waters. Indeed, since early statehood, Oregon courts and the legislature have recognized that water is publicly owned, and the Oregon Supreme Court has ruled consistently in favor of public rights in waterways, based on language in the Statehood Act that declared navigable waters to be public highways that would remain “forever free,” not monopolized by private owners. Moreover, in the early 20th century, the court explicitly ruled that the scope of public rights in publicly-owned waters could and should evolve over time.This Article maintains that the Oregon public trust doctrine is grounded on public ownership of natural resources held in trust by the state in a sovereign capacity. The state has always claimed ownership of water and wildlife within the state, so the courts should recognize both as public trust resources. Although the state can authorize private rights in those resources, all private rights are subject to the state’s sovereign ownership – a public easement – requiring the state to maintain these resources as trustee for the public. Like the Statehood Act’s declaration of public ownership of waterways, courts should interpret the public trust doctrine to be implicit in other statutory declarations of public ownership of natural resources. Similarly, use rights in ocean beaches, claimed by the public under the doctrine of custom, are public trust resources, necessary to enable public use of the adjacent ocean waters. This Article suggests that public ancillary rights exist in other uplands where necessary to provide public access to, or preservation of, public trust water and wildlife resources.Oregon’s public trust doctrine is not of mere academic interest. The doctrine imposes duties on the state as sovereign owner of water, wildlife, and ancillary uplands. In an era of widespread skepticism of government management, the venerable public trust doctrine seems an especially appropriate mechanism to give citizens an opportunity to gain review of government action and inaction threatening unsustainable development of natural resources that are central to the state’s identity, culture, and economy.
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1925112
1
OREGON’S PUBLIC TRUST DOCTRINE: PUBLIC RIGHTS IN WATERS, WILDLIFE,
AND BEACHES
MICHAEL C. BLUMM* & ERIKA DOOT**
Oregon’s public trust doctrine has been misunderstood. The doctrine has not been
judicially interpreted in over thirty years but was the subject of an Oregon Attorney General’s
opinion in 2005. That opinion interpreted the scope of the doctrine to be limited to the beds of
tidelands and navigable-for-title waters and erected a separate “public use” doctrine protecting
public rights in other waters, including recreational waters. However, since Oregon courts have
never limited public rights in the state’s waters to those with publicly owned bedlands, the
opinion should have recognized that the public trust doctrine provides broad public recreational
rights in all waters. Indeed, since early statehood, Oregon courts and the legislature have
recognized that water is publicly owned, and the Oregon Supreme Court has ruled consistently
in favor of public rights in waterways, based on language in the Statehood Act that declared
navigable waters to be public highways that would remain “forever free,” not monopolized by
private owners. Moreover, in the early twentieth century, the court explicitly ruled that the scope
of public rights in publicly owned waters could and should evolve over time.
This Article maintains that Oregon’s public trust doctrine is grounded on public
ownership of natural resources held in trust by the state in sovereign ownership. The state has
always claimed ownership of water and wildlife within the state, so the courts should recognize
both as public trust resources. Although the state can authorize private rights in those resources,
all private rights are subject to the state’s sovereign ownershipa public easementrequiring
the state to maintain these resources as trustee for the public. Like the Statehood Act’s
declaration of public ownership of waterways, courts should interpret the public trust doctrine to
be implicit in other statutory declarations of public ownership of natural resources. Similarly,
use rights in ocean beaches, claimed by the public under the doctrine of custom, are public trust
resources, necessary to enable public use of the adjacent publicly owned tidelands. This Article
suggests that public ancillary rights exist in other uplands where necessary to provide public
access to, or preservation of, public trust water and wildlife resources.
Oregon’s public trust doctrine is not of mere academic interest. The doctrine imposes
duties on the state as sovereign owner of water, wildlife, and ancillary uplands. In an era of
widespread skepticism of government management, the venerable public trust doctrine seems an
especially appropriate mechanism to give citizens an opportunity to gain review of government
action and inaction threatening unsustainable development of natural resources that are central
to the state’s identity, culture, and economy.
I. INTRODUCTION
The public trust doctrine (PTD) in Oregon has a long and venerable history, dating to
numerous nineteenth and early twentieth century court decisions that consistently recognized
public rights in navigable waters.
1
Shortly after statehood in 1859, Oregon courts acknowledged
*Jeffrey Bain Faculty Scholar & Professor of Law, Lewis and Clark Law School. Dedicated to my retiring
colleagues, Jim Huffman and Janet Neuman. I was a colleague of Jim Huffman for 33 years and Janet Neuman for
19 years. I will miss both enormously, the former as a thought-provoking antagonist, see Michael C. Blumm & J.B.
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1925112
2
paramount public rights of navigation, fishing, and commerce in navigable-in-fact waterways,
regardless of bed ownership.
2
Since 1918, the Oregon Supreme Court has recognized public
rights to use all navigable-in-fact waters for recreational purposes, within the scope of commerce
protected by the public navigation easement.
3
Oregon courts have consistently acknowledged
broad public rights in state-owned natural resources, explaining that, like other common law
doctrines, the PTD evolves as public uses change over time.
4
Although the early Oregon Supreme Court did not employ the phrase “public trust
doctrine”—the term was not widely used before Professor Joseph Sax published his influential
article in 1970
5
many other states have recognized that public recreational uses are protected
navigation rights under the PTD over the last forty years.
6
But there is little modern case law on
Ruhl, Background Principles, Takings, and Libertarian Property: A Reply to Professor Huffman, 37 ECOLOGY L.Q.
805 (2009); the latter as a heartfelt fellow-traveler, see Janet C. Neuman & Michael C. Blumm, Water for National
Forests: The Bypass Flow Report and the Great Divide in Western Water Law, 18 STAN. ENVTL. L. REV. 3 (1999).
**J.D. 2011 magna cum laude, Lewis and Clark Law School.
1
See infra note 7 and notes 5961, 69119, 126 and accompanying text.
2
See, e.g., Weise v. Smith, 3 Or. 445, 450 (1869) (stating that navigable waterways are “public highways” that each
person has “an undoubted right to use . . . for all legitimate purposes of trade and transportation”); Hinman v.
Warren, 6 Or. 408, 411–12 (1877) (commenting that as “owner of the tide lands, [the state] had the power . . . to sell
the same. It has, however, no authority to dispose of its tide-lands in such a manner as may interfere with the free
and untrammeled navigation of its rivers, bays, inlets, and the like”); Wilson v. Welch, 7 P. 341, 344 (Or. 1885)
(observing that the state owns the “navigable river[s] within its boundaries, and the shore of its bays, harbors, and
inlets between high and low water, but its ownership is a trust for the public. . . . It cannot sell [the lands] so as to
deprive the public of their enjoyment”); Parker v. W. Coast Packing Co., 21 P. 822, 824 (Or. 1889) (recognizing that
a riparian landowner “may apply such [water] frontage to any use not inconsistent with the rights of the public”);
Bowlby v. Shively, 30 P. 154, 156 (Or. 1892) (holding that title to tidelands acquired from the state continues to be
burdened by the jus publicum and “subject only to the paramount right of navigation”), aff’d, 152 U.S. 1, 5254 (1894).
3
See Hume v. Rogue River Packing Co., 92 P. 1065, 1073 (Or. 1907) (explaining that the public has the right to fish in
waters over privately owned beds); Guilliams v. Beaver Lake Club, 175 P. 437, 442 (Or. 1918) (holding that all
waters in the state capable of navigation by small craft can be used for recreational purposes); Luscher v. Reynolds,
56 P.2d 1158, 1162 (Or. 1936) (explaining that the public had the right to use privately owned lakes because
“[r]egardless of the ownership of the bed, the public has the paramount right to the use of the waters . . . for the
purpose of transportation and commerce,” including transportation for pleasure).
4
Guilliams, 175 P. at 442 (ruling that protected public navigational uses of waters include “sailing, rowing, fishing,
fowling, bathing, skating, taking water for domestic, agricultural, and even city purposes, cutting ice, and other
public purposes which cannot now be enumerated or even anticipated”) (quoting Lamprey v. Metcalf, 53 N.W.
1139, 1143 (Minn. 1893)); see also infra Part III.A (discussing the evolution of public navigation, fishing, and
recreational water uses protected by the Oregon PTD).
5
See generally Joseph L. Sax, The Public Trust Doctrine in Natural Resources Law: Effective Judicial Intervention,
68 MICH. L. REV. 471, 47589 (1970) (tracing the PTD to English and Roman law and describing its development in
early American cases, including Shively, 30 P. 154, and Ill. Cent. R.R. Co. v. Illinois, 146 U.S. 387 (1892)).
6
See, e.g., Mont. Coal. for Stream Access, Inc. v. Curran, 682 P.2d 163, 17071 (Mont. 1984) (recognizing public
rights to use all waters for recreational purposes without regard to bed ownership under the state constitution and
PTD); Raleigh Ave. Beach Ass’n v. Atlantis Beach Club, Inc., 879 A.2d 112, 12324 (N.J. 2005) (holding that a
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1925112
3
the Oregon PTD,
7
giving rise to substantial questions about the extent of the doctrine and its
effects on public and private rights in Oregon’s natural resources.
8
In 2005, after receiving a request from the state treasurer, the Attorney General (AG)
issued an opinion on the scope of the Oregon PTD.
9
The lack of recent case law made it
impossible for the AG to resolve definitively several questions about the relationship between
public use rights and riparian landowner rights.
10
For example, the AG was unable to offer
guidance as to whether the public may use the beds of all navigable-in-fact waters to the ordinary
high water mark for recreational purposes ancillary to public navigation rights, or whether the
private beach club must provide public access but could charge a reasonable management fee); Harrison C.
Dunning, Sources of the Public Right, in 2 WATERS AND WATER RIGHTS § 30.04 (Robert. E. Beck & Amy K. Kelley
eds., 3d ed. 2011) (describing the public ownership of water concept in Idaho, Montana, New Mexico,
South Dakota, and Wyoming).
7
Since the late 1800s, Oregon courts have repeatedly announced broad public rights in all waters in the state,
sometimes discussing the right to use adjacent uplands. See, e.g.. Weise, 3 Or. at 45051; Hinman, 6 Or. at 41112;
Wilson, 7 P. at 344; Guilliams, 175 P. at 442. Yet Oregon courts have not addressed the PTD since the 1979 decision
of Morse v. Or. Div. of State Lands, 590 P.2d 709, 71314 (Or. 1979) (en banc) (explaining that the Director of the
Department of State Lands may authorize dredging or filling of trust lands if the administrative record contained a
record finding that the “public need” for a project outweighed the damage to resources). See infra notes 16770 and
accompanying text. The Oregon Supreme Court applied the related doctrine of customary rights to Oregon ocean
beaches in State ex rel. Thornton v. Hay, 462 P.2d 671, 673, 67778 & n. 6 (Or. 1969), a principle that was affirmed
in Stevens v. City of Cannon Beach, 854 P.2d 449, 45457, 460 (Or. 1993) (en banc) (rejecting assertions that the
state’s denial of a permit to construct a seawall was an unconstitutional taking), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1207 (1994),
and McDonald v. Halvorson, 780 P.2d 714, 724 (Or. 1989) (en banc) (declining to extend public use rights to a large
upland tidepool because the area was physically separated from the shoreline and was not customarily used by the
public), a case that was misinterpreted by Justice Scalia. See infra note 241 and accompanying text.
8
Janet C. Neuman, Oregon, in 4 WATERS AND WATER RIGHTS, supra note 6, § II (discussing the controversy over
Oregon’s declaration of navigable-for-title waters that led to the attorney general’s opinion on public use rights in
Oregon waters in 2005).
9
The State Land Board, 8281 Op. Or. Att’y Gen. 24 (2005) (recognizing public rights to recreate in navigable -for-
title waters under the PTD as well as public rights to recreate in waters capable of recreational use under the “public
use” doctrine), available at http://www.oregon.gov/DSL/NAV/docs/ag_op-8281_navigability.pdf?ga=t [hereinafter
2005 AG Opinion]; see generally Matthew Preusch, Decision Opens John Day River, THE OREGONIAN, June 15,
2005, at B1, B4 (describing the political controversy surrounding public rights to use Oregon waterways in 2005).
10
2005 AG Opinion, supra note 9, at 24 (explaining that the “owner may not prevent the public from floating down
a waterway,” but not elaborating on other landowner rights that are “not inconsistent with public use [and] remain
with the riparian landowner”) (citing Shaw v. Oswego Iron Co., 10 Or. 371, 38183 (1882)); see also Matthew
Preusch, Who Owns Oregon’s Rivers?, THE OREGONIAN, Mar. 9, 2008, at C4; Matthew Preusch, Oregon Land
Board Says State Owns 89-Mile Stretch of Rogue, THE OREGONIAN, June 10, 2008, available at
http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2008/06/oregon_land_board_says_state_o.html (last visited Nov.
2, 2011); Matthew Preusch, Oregon River Rights Still in Question as Montana Governor Signs Stream Access Bill,
THE OREGONIAN, Apr. 15, 2009, available at
http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/04/oregon_river_rights_still_in_q.html (last visited Nov. 2,
2011).
4
public may cross private uplands when necessary to access navigable waters.
11
The AG did not
limit public recreational rights to use state-owned submerged lands under navigable-for-title
waters
12
but he provided little clarification on scope of public rights to use beds that may be
privately owned when navigating, fishing, and recreating on waterways in the state.
13
The 2005 AG opinion assumed that the PTD applies only to navigable-for-title waters
with state-owned beds.
14
The opinion also attempted to explain how a so-called “public use”
doctrine, or floatage easement, applies to privately owned waters that are navigable-in-fact but
not navigable-for-title, that is, those with privately owned beds.
15
This analysis was flawed
because it failed to recognize that waters historically susceptible of floatation by small craft or
even seasonal log floats satisfy the federal test of title navigability.
16
Further, by limiting public
rights in waters over private beds, the opinion adopted an unnecessarily constrained view of the
PTD because the Oregon Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized a public easement in all
navigable-in-fact waters for navigation, fishing, commerce, and recreation, and has also
articulated limited ancillary rights to use uplands.
17
11
2005 AG Opinion, supra note 9, at 2427.
12
See Pollard v. Hagen, 44 U.S. (3 How.) 212, 224 (1845) (holding states received title to lands underlying
navigable-for-title waterways when admitted to the Union under the equal footing doctrine).
13
2005 AG Opinion, supra note 9, at 16–24 (describing what the AG Opinion considered the “public use doctrine,”
a seemingly more limited class of public rights to use navigable-in-fact waters with privately owned beds). For
waterways in which the beds have not been declared to be state-owned, the AG simply stated that an individual may
“decide for himself” what his rights to use the waterway are as a member of the public, “tak[ing] the risk that his use
will be a trespass if he is mistaken.” Id. at 2728.
14
See id. at 12.
15
Id. at 1619, 2324.
16
See Utah v. United States, 403 U.S. 9, 1011 (1971) (citing Daniel Ball, 77 U.S (10 Wall.) 557, 563 (1870)).
17
Compare infra Part II (discussing the AG opinion), with Weise v. Smith, 3 Or. 445, 45051 (1869) (recognizing
that regardless of bed ownership, “a stream . . . generally useful for floating boats, rafts, or logs, for any useful
purpose of agriculture or trade, though it be private property, and not strictly navigable, is subject to the public use
as a passage-way”); Felger v. Robinson, 3 Or. 455, 458 (1869) (reiterating that loggers had the right to raft logs on
waters overlying privately owned beds because “any stream . . . is navigable on whose waters logs or timbers can be
floated to market, and [] they are public highway for that purpose,” and explaining that “it is not necessary that
they be navigable the whole year to constitute them such”); Shaw v. Oswego Iron Co., 10 Or. 371, 38283 (1882)
(affirming the trial court’s order enjoining a landowner from diverting water to a mill in a manner that interfered
with public use of the water for floating logs); Guilliams v. Beaver Lake Club, 175 P. 437, 44243 (Or. 1918)
(affirming the trial court’s ruling a landowner could not build a dam for flood control that would interfere with
public use of a nearby lagoon and stream for fishing and recreation during high water).
5
The 2005 AG opinion recognized that case law does not limit public use rights to
navigable-for-title waters in Oregon.
18
Indeed, since 1869, the Oregon Supreme Court has
consistently recognized broad public rights in all navigable-in-fact waters, regardless of
ownership of the underlying land.
19
By restricting the PTD to navigable-for-title waters, the AG
confused the scope of public rights because the courts have never limited public use rights to
these waters, and the PTD protects public uses like recreational boating and floating in all
lawfully accessed state waters.
20
The courts and the State Land Board have not ascertained ownership of the beds of most
state waters,
21
which has created substantial confusion about bed ownership.
22
Therefore, by
limiting ancillary public rights to use bedlands and adjacent uplands to waterways with state-
owned beds, the 2005 opinion failed to appreciate the scope of public navigation rights
recognized since the 1800s.
23
Neither early nor modern cases on public water use rights turned
on bed ownership. And the PTD is not based exclusively on bed ownership, but instead is based
largely on public navigation rights from the “common highways” language in the Statehood Act
of 1859 (reflecting the language of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787
24
) as well as the states’ long
recognition of public ownership of water.
25
18
Compare 2005 AG Opinion, supra note 9, at 15 (“Where the state has acquired ownership of a waterway as an
incident of statehood, its management and disposition of those rights is subject to the public trust doctrine . . . .”),
with id. at 1524 (discussing many early cases recognizing public commercial and recreation use rights in Oregon
waters without regard to bed ownership).
19
See supra notes 7, 17 and accompanying text; infra Part III.
20
Weise, 3 Or. at 451.
21
The state has established ownership of just 12 river segments and fewer than 100 of the state’s thousands of lakes.
Or. Dept. of State Lands, Waterway Authorizations, Waterway Navigability, http://www.oregon.gov/DSL/
NAV/waterway_navigability_index.shtml (providing links to lists of rivers, creeks, sloughs, and lakes that the state
has determined are publicly owned) (last visited Oct 28, 2011).
22
In 1995, the Oregon legislature established a detailed administrative process under which the State Land Board
may assert state ownership of submerged or submersible lands. OR. REV. STAT. §§ 274.402.412 (2007); see Or.
Dept. of State Lands, supra note 21.
23
See infra Parts III, IV.A.
24
Ordinance of 1787: The Northwest Territorial Government, 1 U.S.C. LV, LVII (2006) (part of the Organic Laws
of the United States of America); see also Brusco Towboat Co. v. State, 589 P. 2d 712, 718 (Or. 1978) (en banc);
Port of Portland v. Reeder, 280 P.2d 324, 33435, 338 (Or. 1955) (en banc); Winston Bros. Co. v. State Tax
Comm’n, 62 P.2d 7, 9 (Or. 1936); Anderson v. Columbia Contract Co., 184 P. 240, 243 (Or. 1919); Corvalis & E.
R. Co. v. Benson, 121 P. 418, 422 (Or. 1912) (“The state, however, cannot abdicate or grant away the other element
of its title to tidelandsthe jus publicum, or public authority over them. This is the dominion of government or
6
The wealth of early Oregon case law protecting broad public rights in navigable waters,
including ancillary rights, also suggests that the PTD has become a background principle of state
property law. The United States Supreme Court has explained that a state does not owe
constitutional compensation under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment when it regulates
private property consistent with background principles of state property law.
26
Justice Scalia
once questioned whether customary public rights to use Oregon’s ocean beaches are actually a
background principle of Oregon property law.
27
But since 1869, the Oregon Supreme Court
recognized paramount public rights in all navigable-in-fact waters, even those with privately
owned beds.
28
In 1912, the state supreme court explained that “[t]he right of the state so to
regulate the use of tidelands as not materially to impede the public right of navigation is a
constant factor in every title relating to such land, but regulation is not confiscation.”
29
The next
year, in 1913, Governor Oswald West and the legislature again declared all Oregon tidelands
“public highways” based upon their longstanding use for travel along the rugged coast.
30
The
sovereignty in the state, by which it prevents any use of lands bordering on the navigable waters within the state
which will materially interfere with navigation and commerce thereon.”); Johnson v. Jeldness, 167 P. 798, 799 (Or.
1917) (“Section 2 of the act of Congress approved February 14, 1859, admitting the state of Oregon into the Union,
… [guarantees that on] ‘rivers and waters, and all the navigable waters of said state, shall be common highways and
forever free, as well as to the inhabitants of said state as to all other citizens of the United States, without any tax,
duty, impost, or toll therefor.’ This section is declarative and preservative of the jus publicum including the public
right of navigation and fishery.”) (quoting Act of Feb. 14, 1859 (Oregon Statehood Act), ch. 33, § 2, 11 Stat. 383));
Hinman v. Warren, 6 Or. 408, 412 (1877) (“The grantees of the state took the land subject to every easement
growing out of the right of navigation inherent in the public.”); Office of the Attorney General, State of Oregon,
Opinion No. 6861, 35 Or. Op. Atty. Gen. 844, 84748 (Sept. 17, 1971); Dunning, supra note 6, § 30.04.
25
See In re Hood River, 227 P. 1065, 1087 (Or. 1924) (announcing that “[n]o one has any property in the water
itself, but a simple usufruct” and that Oregon law “plainly declares that all waters within the state from all sources of
water supply belong to the public”); see also Dunning, supra note 6, § 30.04.
26
Lucas v. S.C. Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003, 1027 (1992) (explaining that the state can regulate property
consistent with background principles of nuisance and property law without owing constitutional compensation).
27
Stevens v. City of Cannon Beach, 510 U.S. 1207, 1211 (1994) (Scalia, J., dissenting) (arguing that “a State may
not deny rights protected under the Federal Constitution . . . by invoking nonexistent rules of state substantive law”).
28
See supra note 17 and accompanying text; infra Part III (discussing Oregon Supreme Court opinions recognizing
public rights to navigate, fish, engage in commerce, and recreate on waters overlying privately owned beds).
29
Corvallis & E. R. Co., 121 P. at 426; accord, Ill. Cent. R.R. Co. v. Illinois, 146 U.S. 387, 458460 (1892)
(upholding the state’s conveyance of a tract of tidelands and navigable waters to a railroad but explaining that the
state could not abdicate the jus publicum or duty to protect public rights of navigation, fishing, and commerce).
30
An Act to Amend Section 6369 of Lord’s Oregon Laws, ch. 47, 1913 Or. Laws 80, 80 (The shore of the Pacific
Ocean, between ordinary high tide and extreme low tide, and from the Columbia River on the north to the Oregon
and California State line on the south . . . is hereby declared a public highway and shall forever remain open as such
to the public.”); see KATHRYN A. STRATON, OR. STATE PARKS & RECREATION BRANCH, OREGONS BEACHES: A
7
modern Oregon Supreme Court declared that customary rights to use Oregon beaches are
background principles of state property law burdening private land titles.
31
Consequently,
Oregon courts should recognize that public water use rights are also background principles and a
defense against compensation claims because the Oregon Supreme Court has consistently upheld
these public rights since early statehood.
32
This Article maintains that Oregon case law, statutes, and AG opinions support a
comprehensive Oregon PTD that protects public rights to use water, wildlife, ocean beaches, and
associated uplands. Part II explains how the 2005 AG opinion unnecessarily confined the PTD to
navigable-for-title waters while identifying a new category of public use rights in waters with
privately owned beds. Part III shows how since the early 1900s, the Oregon Supreme Court has
upheld public rights to use all navigable-in-fact waters for recreational purposes, regardless of
bed ownership. Part IV proceeds to describe how the courts, the legislature, and executive
officials have consistently recognized broad public rights in Oregon’s waters, wildlife, and
beaches based on public navigation rights, sovereign ownership of water and wildlife, and
custom. The Article concludes that Oregon’s courts and the AG should unify these common law
concepts under the state PTD to consistently recognize public rights in state-owned natural
resources.
33
BIRTHRIGHT PRESERVED 1011 (1977); Or. State Archives, Oregon Blue Book: Notable Oregonians: Oswald West
Governor, http://bluebook.state.or.us/notable/notwest.htm (last visited Nov. 2, 2011) (describing how, after
recovering 900,000 acres of school trust lands fraudulently acquired by speculators, Governor West lobbied for
legislation halting conveyances of tidelands); Or. Pub. Broad., Oregon Experience: The Beach Bill,
http://www.opb.org/programs/oregonexperiencearchive/beachbill/ (last visited Nov. 2, 2011) (providing links to a
documentary and timeline of Oregon’s landmark 1967 Beach Bill).
31
Oregon Statehood Act, ch. 33, § 2, 11 Stat. 383 (1859). The Act incorporated language from the Northwest
Ordinance of 1787 declaring that “all the navigable waters . . . shall be common highways and forever free.” Id.
32
See, e.g., Stevens v. City of Cannon Beach, 854 P.2d 449, 460 (Or. 1993) (“Because the administrative rules and
ordinances here do not deny to dry sand area owners all economically viable use of their land and because ‘the
proscribed use interests’ asserted by plaintiffs were not part of plaintiffs’ title to begin with, they withstand plaintiffs’
facial challenge to their validity under the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment.” (quoting Lucas v. S.C. Coastal
Council, 505 U.S. 1003, 1027 (1992))); Dodd v. Hood River Cnty., 855 P.2d 608, 614 n.12, 617 (Or. 1993) (en banc)
(denying landowner claims of regulatory takings based on a county forest zoning ordinance, explaining that the
zoning designation did not deprive landowners of all economically viable uses of their property because the
ordinance allowed for “numerous forest and agricultural uses”).
33
See infra note 61 and accompanying text (discussing two 1959 AG opinions following 1918 and 1936 Oregon
Supreme Court cases, and recognizing broad public rights to use all navigable-in-fact waters for commerce and
recreation based on public ownership of water and wildlife); infra Part V.
8
II. THE 2005 ATTORNEY GENERAL OPINION
In 2005, controversy surrounding the determination of state bed ownership along
segments of the John Day River, combined with high-profile trespass suits involving fishermen’s
associations, prompted Oregon’s Treasurer to request an AG opinion on the scope of public
rights in Oregon’s navigable waters.
34
In the ensuing opinion, Oregon Attorney General Hardy
Myers acknowledged public rights to recreate on both navigable-for-title waters with state-
owned beds, and navigable-in-fact waters with privately owned beds.
35
The AG relied on the
Oregon Supreme Court’s recognition of public rights to use all navigable-in-fact waterways for
recreational purposes regardless of bed ownership in the 1918 decision of Guilliams v. Beaver
Lake Club
36
and the 1936 decision of Luscher v. Reynolds.
37
However, the opinion confined the
PTD to navigable-for-title waters, creating confusion by announcing a new category of public
rights, apparently separate from the PTD, on navigable-in-fact waters with privately owned beds:
the so-called “public use” doctrine.
38
The AG’s public use doctrine was a consequence of a failure to appreciate the breadth of
the PTD, defining “navigable-for-public-use” waterways as those “navigable-in-fact” waters
“open to public use under Oregon law, even if the bed is privately-owned.
39
Although Oregon
courts had never distinguished public rights based on state or private bed ownership,
40
the AG
erected this wholly new “public use” doctrine protecting public rights to use waters for purposes
like those protected under the PTD, including commerce, fishing, and recreation. The new
34
JANET C. NEUMAN, OREGON WATER LAW: A COMPREHENSIVE TREATISE ON THE LAW OF WATER AND WATER
RIGHTS IN OREGON § 8.0, at 22223, 23335 (2011) (describing recreational navigability in Oregon and the genesis
of the 2005 AG Opinion).
35
2005 AG Opinion, supra note 9, at 1517, 24 (recognizing public rights to recreate in state waters under the PTD,
and in all navigable waters under the “public use” doctrine).
36
175 P. 437, 442 (Or. 1918).
37
56 P.2d 1158, 1162 (Or. 1936); 2005 AG Opinion, supra note 9, at 24.
38
See 2005 AG Opinion, supra note 9, at 24 (“Guilliams and Luscher are the Oregon Supreme Court’s most recent
opinions on the public use doctrine in Oregon. The public’s common law right to use a waterway independent of
state ownership is established by the line of cases culminating in these decisions.”).
39
Id. at 2. This Article refers to navigable-in-fact waters as navigable-for-public-use waters.
40
See id. (defining “[p]ublic rights to use” arising from either state ownership or the public use doctrine as
“navigation, commerce, recreation or fisheries” in one common definition).
9
doctrine applied to “navigable-for-public-use” waters with privately owned beds.
41
But the
opinion failed to distinguish public rights protected under the public use doctrine from those
protected by the PTD.
42
The 2005 opinion explained that the public can use navigable-for-public-
use waters to hunt, fish, boat, bathe, and “do other things incidental to the public use of water,”
43
suggesting that, like under the PTD, protected public uses can evolve over time.
44
By identifying
this new category of public rights protected under the so-called public use doctrine, the opinion
created confusion about public rights to navigate, fish, hunt, and recreate on most of Oregon’s
lakes and small rivers, where bed ownership is often unclear.
45
On navigable-for-title waters that are clearly subject to the PTD, the AG opinion advised
that all activities “not otherwise unlawful” are permissible below the ordinary high water mark
on waters, including any use of state-owned beds and banks for recreational purposes.
46
However, for waters overlying privately owned beds, the AG noted that some lawful activities
below the ordinary high water mark may be trespasses outside the scope of the public use
doctrine if the public “materially injure[s] or interfere[s]” with landowner rights.
47
Without
giving any examples, the 2005 opinion advised that proscribed uses were those “unreasonably
interfering” with landowner rights, supplying law enforcement little guidance as to the scope of
permissible activities when members of the public may lawfully access navigable waters.
48
41
Id. at 22, 24 (describing how the Guilliams court recognized that “public use for ‘commerce’ includes fishing and
pleasure boating” (citing Guilliams, 175 P. at 44142)).
42
Compare id. at 15 (describing the state’s requirement to protect public uses under the PTD), with id. at 22
(describing the uses protected under the public use doctrine).
43
Id. at 23 (quoting ROBERT Y. THORNTON, 29 BIENNIAL REPORT AND OPINIONS OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF
THE STATE OF OREGON 296, 29697 (1959)); id. at 2324 (citing THORNTON, supra, at 31112) (advising the
Oregon Military Department that it could not lease department-owned lands to a private hunting club because the
public has the right to hunt and fish on waters that were navigable-in-fact, regardless of ownership of the beds of the
waterway).
44
See generally Or. Dept. of State Lands, supra note 21 (explaining which waters have been declared navigable-for-
title by the Department or the courts in linked pages).
45
See supra notes 2122, infra notes 5458 and accompanying text.
46
2005 AG Opinion, supra note 9, at 2.
47
See id. at 25 (quoting Trullinger v. Howe, 97 P. 548, 550 (Or. 1908), modified, 99 P. 880 (Or. 1909)) (explaining
that in 1908, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that “a logger did not have the right to operate dams or reservoirs on a
stream above a riparian landowner’s property for the purpose of floating logs, if that operation ‘materially injure[s]
or interfere[s] with the riparian owner’s use of the waters for power purposes’”).
48
Id. at 28.
10
Uncertain public rights on state waters pose problems because landowners may erroneously
exclude members of the public from floatable waterways, and demand for recreational uses of
waters is on the rise.
49
Unlike the 2005 opinion, the Oregon Supreme Court has never articulated narrower
public rights to use waters with privately owned beds for navigation or recreation, so the state
should not have to determine bed ownership to determine the scope of public rights in waters.
50
Public ownership of water and the public highways language of the Oregon Statehood Act
support the consistent protection of public navigation rights in all waters navigable-for-public-
use.
51
As explained in Part III, these ideas were the basis of early state common law on the
subject, which the Oregon Supreme Court has consistently followed when recognizing public
rights to use waters for commerce, navigation, fishing, and recreation, regardless of bed
ownership.
52
Consequently, the AG should revise the 2005 opinion to recognize that the PTD
burdens all waters in Oregon and protects public rights to use water for trust purposes, subject, of
course, to reasonable state regulation.
53
49
See, e.g., Nw. Steelheader’s Ass’n v. Simantel, 112 P.3d 383, 38586 (Or. Ct. App. 2005) (describing a
landowner’s counterclaim for trespass when the public plaintiffs sought a declaration of navigability for recreational
fishing on the John Day River); see also OregonBusinessPlan.org, Tourism & Hospitality,
http://www.oregonbusinessplan.org/Industry-Clusters/About-Oregons-Industry-Clusters/Tourism-Hospitality.aspx
(last visited Jan. 29, 2012) (noting that tourism will continue to play an important role in Oregon’s future and that
the industry saw a 20% increase between 2003 and 2009).
50
See infra Part III; see, e.g., Weise, 3 Or. 445, 45051 (1869) (recognizing public rights to float logs on navigable
waters, even those over privately owned beds); Felger v. Robinson, 3 Or. 455, 458 (1869) (upholding public rights
to float logs in streams with privately owned beds that were only seasonally navigable); Shaw v. Oswego Iron Co.,
10 Or. 371, 371, 38283 (1882) (affirming an injunction against a riparian sawmill owner for diverting water in a
manner that interfered with log floats on the Tualatin River); Johnson v. Jeldness, 167 P. 798, 799 (Or. 1917)
(rejecting a littoral landowner’s attempt to exclude the public and establish an exclusive fishery because the Oregon
Statehood Act recognized a public fishery, Oregon Statehood Act, ch. 33, § 2, 11 Stat. 383 (1859)); Guilliams, 175
P. 437, 44142 (Or. 1918) (affirming public recreational rights on navigable streams and lagoons with privately
owned beds); Luscher, 56 P.2d 1158, 1162 (Or. 1936) (ruling that the bed of Blue Lake was privately owned in a
breach of warranty decision, but explaining that the public had recreational rights on the lake under Guilliams).
51
See Dunning, supra note 6, § 30.04 (describing public ownership of water as a source of the PTD in Montana,
Idaho, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming, and noting similar statutory language in OR. REV. STAT. §
537.110 (2006)).
52
See infra Part III (describing Oregon Supreme Court cases recognizing public rights to use all waters regardless of
bed ownership).
53
See infra notes 12127 and accompanying text.
11
When ownership of the bed of a waterway is unclear, and the extent of public rights
below ordinary high water mark are therefore uncertain, the AG advised members of the public
to “(1) file a Petition for Navigability Study that asks the Board to conduct a formal study and
issue a final declaration; (2) file an action asking a court to determine whether the particular
waterway is state-owned; or (3) decide [whether it is worth] . . . tak[ing] the risk that [the] use
will be a trespass.”
54
This advice is neither practical nor in keeping with the spirit of the Oregon
Supreme Court’s consistent and broad protection of public recreational rights in navigable-for-
public-use waters, regardless of bed ownership.
55
First, although Oregon has established a
process for declaring bed ownership, the procedure is cumbersome, time-consuming, and rarely
invoked, meaning that ownership confusion is likely to persist for decades.
56
Second, case law
and several earlier AG opinions reveal that the Oregon PTD burdens all state waters, presumes
the validity of public uses, and requires landowners to bear the burden of establishing that a
waterway is not useful for public boating, bathing, fishing, hunting, or other uses.
57
Consequently, the PTD should not, as the 2005 AG Opinion concluded, require the public to
either bear the burden of proving bed ownership or risk trespass liability.
58
54
2005 AG Opinion, supra note 9, at 2728.
55
See supra text accompanying note 40; infra Part III.
56
See supra notes 5455 and accompanying text (describing Oregon’s processes for determining navigability and
bed ownership); see also Matthew Preusch, Oregon River Rights Still in Question as Montana Governor Signs
Access Bill, THE OREGONIAN, Apr. 15, 2009,
http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/04/oregon_river _rights_still_in_q.html (last visited Nov. 2,
2011) (“Currently the state has a bulky, contentious, river-by-river system for determining whether a river is
‘navigable’ . . . .”).
57
See infra Part III.
58
See infra text accompanying notes 11020 (describing the Oregon Supreme Court’s broad view of the PTD
concerning public navigational rights); see also Mont. Coal. for Stream Access, Inc. v. Hildreth, 684 P.2d 1088,
1091 (Mont. 1984) (rejecting a “pleasure-boat” or “commercial use” test of the scope of the PTD as unduly
restrictive because the Montana Constitution declares that “[a]ll surface, underground, flood, and atmospheric
waters within the boundaries of the state are the property of the state for the use of its people” (quoting MONT.
CONST., art. IX, § 3(3) (2011)); Ark. River Rights Comm. v. Echubby Lake Hunting Club, 126 S.W.3d 738, 74344
(Ark. Ct. App. 2003) (ruling that inundated lands with privately owned beds were navigable for recreational use,
explaining: “We disagree that the concept of navigability for the purpose of determining the public’s right to use
water is that static. Although navigability to fix ownership of a river bed or riparian rights is determined as of the
date of the state’s entry into the union, navigability for other purposes may arise later.”).
12
As long ago as 1918, in Guilliams v. Beaver Lake Club, the Oregon Supreme Court
recognized recreational use as a protected public use of navigable waters, even those with
privately owned beds.
59
The court explicitly affirmed the Guilliams holding two decades later in
1936, in Luscher v. Reynolds.
60
Then, in a 1959 opinion, the AG recognized that irrespective of
bed ownership, public rights to fish and hunt in all navigable-for-public-use waters are “free and
common to all the citizens of the state” and that, absent statutory authority, the Oregon National
Guard could not lease a portion of Slusher Lake to provide a private hunting club with exclusive
waterfowl shooting privileges.
61
The 1959 opinion explained that state agencies cannot issue leases interfering with public
use rights without authorization from the state legislature because doing so would “transform[] a
public right into a monopoly.
62
The AG recognized that the state could regulate hunting,
fishing, and other recreational activities in its sovereign capacity but, like private landowners, the
state could not exclude the public from using navigable waters for recreational purposes when
acting in its proprietary capacity.
63
Consistent with the 1959 opinion and a wealth of Oregon case
law discussed in the next Part, the AG should revise the 2005 opinion to recognize that the
Oregon PTD protects all reasonable uses of navigable-for-public-use waters. In short, the PTD is
59
Guilliams, 175 P. 437, 44142 (Or. 1918) (explaining that “we fail to see why commerce should not be construed
to include the use of boats and vessels for the purposes of pleasure”).
60
Luscher, 56 P.2d 1158, 1162 (Or. 1936) (describing Guilliams as “well-considered”).
61
THORTON, supra note 43, at 31112 (advising that the Oregon Military Department could not lease department-
owned lands to a private hunting club because the public has the right to hunt and fish on waters that were navigable
in fact, regardless of ownership of the beds of the waterway); see also THORTON, supra note 43, at 29697
(affirming that the Oregon State Marine Board could promulgate boating regulations governing the use of Oswego
Lake, even though the lakebed was privately owned).
Oswego Lake provides a useful case study of the potential effects of the PTD. The lake is nearly
surrounded by private landowners, although there are adjacent public lands. See, e.g., Oswego Lake Forum, Q&A on
Oswego Lake Accessibility with the Oregon Department of State Lands, http://lakeaccess.wordpress.com/about (last
visited Jan. 29, 2012) (colloquy between Todd Prager, Lake Oswego Planning Commissioner, and Jeff Kroft, Senior
Policy Specialist, Or. Dept. of State Lands). For years, however, the corporation managing the lake has assumed that
there are no public rights to the lake. See id. Yet, the public’s ownership of the water in the lake means that the
corporation has no right to exclude the public from recreational use of the lake. Id.
62
THORTON, supra note 43, at 312.
63
Id. (“It is our view then that the public easement for the purposes of navigation and commerce includes the right
to hunt and that the state cannot grant an exclusive right to hunt on Slusher Lake.”).
13
not only associated with public land ownership, but also provides public usufructuary rights in
all navigable waters.
III. PUBLIC WATER USE RIGHTS UNDER THE OREGON PTD
Oregon courts should recognize that, as in other states,
64
the state’s traditional PTD
protecting public rights to navigate, fish, hunt, and conduct commerce may evolve to protect new
public uses, just as the Oregon PTD evolved in the early 1900s to protect recreation in waters
floatable only by small craft.
65
The 1859 Oregon Statehood Act required the state to protect
public navigation rights, including language from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 that declared
“all the navigable waters . . . shall be common highways and forever free.”
66
After statehood, the
Oregon Supreme Court repeatedly invoked this “public highways” language when recognizing
public rights to navigate, fish, and conduct commerce in all navigable waters, even those with
privately owned beds.
67
Later, in the early 1900s, the Oregon Supreme Court recognized public
rights to recreate in all navigable-in-fact waters, regardless of bed ownership.
68
This Part
describes how, building on the Statehood Act, several nineteenth century Oregon Supreme Court
decisions laid the groundwork for a broad PTD recognizing public rights to conduct commerce,
navigate, fish, and recreate in all Oregon waters capable of supporting these public uses.
A. Public Rights of Navigation, Fishing, and Commerce
64
See Dunning, supra note 6, § 31.01.02 (describing traditional public rights of navigation, commerce, and fishing,
as well as modern recognition of public recreational rights).
65
2005 AG Opinion, supra note 9, at 1 (“Federal and state law limit the discretion of the state to alienate its
ownership [of the beds of navigable-for-title waters], to the extent that doing so would interfere with the public use
of the waterway for navigation, commerce, recreation or fisheries.”); see supra note 61 and accompanying text
(describing public rights to hunt in Oregon).
66
Oregon Statehood Act, ch. 33, § 2, 11 Stat. 383 (1859); see, e.g., Johnson v. Jeldness, 167 P. 798, 799 (Or. 1917)
(rejecting a littoral landowner’s attempt to claim an exclusive fishery because the Oregon Statehood Act established
a public right of fishery) (citing Oregon Statehood Act, § 2); Anderson v. Columbia Contract Co. 184 P. 240, 243
(Or. 1919) (“The Columbia river is a navigable stream, and as such is a common highway ‘and forever free.’ This
right is a public one, and it is not only given by the common law, but is preserved by the statute admitting the state
of Oregon into the Union.”) (citing Jeldness, 167 P. at 799).
67
Felger v. Robinson, 3 Or. 455, 455, 458 (1869); Shaw v. Oswego Iron Co., 10 Or. 371, 375 (1882) (“At the
common law . . . navigable rivers . . . are denominated public highways, and the public have only an easement
therein for the purposes of transportation and commercial intercourse.”).
68
See supra notes 3637; infra Part III.B and accompanying text (discussing the Guilliams and Luscher decisions).
14
In back-to-back cases in 1869, the Oregon Supreme Court defined public rights to
conduct commerce, fish, and navigate in navigable-in-fact waters. First, in Weise v. Smith,
69
the
court affirmed a trial court ruling that loggers did not trespass by floating logs over privately
owned beds of the Tualatin River to sawmills in Oregon City.
70
The court held that a “stream . . .
generally useful for floating boats, rafts, or logs, for any useful purpose of agriculture and trade,
though it be private property, and not strictly navigable, is subject to public use as a
passageway.”
71
The Weise decision explained that the public had the right to use waters that were
exposed privately owned beds below the high water mark and, when necessary, even associated
uplands.
72
The court expressly recognized that the loggers had the right to construct temporary
booms on privately owned uplands adjacent to navigable-in-fact waters when necessary to
facilitate navigation.
73
In this first case on public rights in navigable waters, the Oregon Supreme
Court upheld public rights of navigation and commerce on all floatable waters, regardless of bed
ownership.
74
Second, in the companion case of Felger v. Robinson,
75
the court recognized the public’s
right to float logs to market on waters over privately owned beds that were navigable only during
69
3 Or. 445 (1869).
70
Id. at 45051.
71
Id. at 450. The Weise court rejected the tidal test of navigability inherited from English common law in favor of
the navigable-in-fact test after describing the navigable-in-fact test as the “settled law of the United States” adapted
to its geographical conditions. Id. at 44849. The early Oregon Supreme Court did not seem to recognize log floats
as sufficient evidence of commerce to establish navigability for title purposes. See, e.g., Shaw, 10 Or. at 37576
(explaining that streams “navigable in fact for boats, vessels, or lighters” are “public highways” where “the public
have an easement for the purposes of navigation and commerce, but the title of the subjacent soil . . . is in the
riparian owner, subject to the superior rights of the public to use it for the purposes of transportation and trade”).
However, the modern Oregon Supreme Court has recognized that waters capable of supporting log floats are
navigable-for-title, meaning that the state acquired ownership of the beds of these waters at statehood. See Nw.
Steelheaders Ass’n v. Simantel, 112 P.3d 383, 385, 392 (Or. Ct. App. 2005) (affirming that segments of the John
Day River were navigable-for-title based on evidence of log floats in early statehood).
72
Weise, 3 Or. at 45052 (explaining that “[n]o person has a right to permanently obstruct the channel of such
stream by a boom across it, though he may do so temporarily, if necessary for the useful navigation of the stream,”
and commenting that “[i]f there had been no necessity for fastening the boom to the plaintiff’s land . . . it would
have been a trespass” (citations omitted)).
73
Id. at 45051 (determining that the jury should determine whether public navigational uses are unreasonable,
including whether loggers failed to remove booms within a reasonable time).
74
Id. at 450.
75
3 Or. 455 (1869).
15
the spring freshet.
76
The supreme court affirmed a lower court decision in favor of the loggers,
but emphasized that a jury should decide whether public use of waters was reasonable based on
the facts because under state law, despite private bed ownership, the public has superior rights to
navigate for purposes of transportation and trade, and “any stream . . . is navigable on whose
waters logs or timbers can be floated to market, and that they are public highways for that
purpose.
77
The court also stated that it is not necessary that they be navigable the whole year
for that purpose to constitute navigable streams.
78
Thus, in its earliest rulings on public
navigation rights in 1869, the Oregon Supreme Court ratified public rights to use all waterways,
even those with privately owned beds that are intermittently suitable for public use.
79
A little more than a decade later, in its 1882 decision of Shaw v. Oswego Iron Co.,
80
the
Oregon Supreme Court continued to emphasize this broad protection of public use rights,
explicitly affirming Weise and Felger.
81
In Shaw, the court upheld an injunction against an iron
smelter for diverting water in a manner that interfered with log floats on the Tualatin River,
82
explaining that even when riparian landowners own to the middle of a stream, their rights are
“subordinate to the public easement” and “subject to the superior rights of the public to use [the
water] for the purposes of transportation and trade.”
83
The Oregon court was hardly unique in
76
Id. at 457–58 (“We hold the law to be, that any stream in this state is navigable on whose waters logs or timbers
can be floated to market, and that they are public highways for that purpose; and that it is not necessary that they be
navigable the whole year for that purpose to constitute them such.”).
77
Id. at 458; see also Shaw, 10 Or. 371, 37576 (1882) (describing superior public navigation rights on navigable-
in-fact waters, even those with privately owned beds).
78
Felger, 3 Or. at 458.
79
See Weise, 3 Or. at 450; Felger, 3 Or. at 455, 458.
80
10 Or. 371, 382 (1882).
81
Id. at 382 (noting that Weise and Felger were consistent with developments of the public navigation right in
Maine, New York, and Wisconsin and citing Treat v. Lord, 42 Me. 552, 56062, 564 (1855); Morgan v. King, 35
N.Y. 454, 459 (1866); Diedrich v. Nw. Union Ry. Co., 42 Wis. 248, 266 (1877)).
82
Id. at 37475.
83
Id. at 37576, 382. The court did emphasize that the public does not have a right to damage riparian land. See id.
at 37576 (discussing the public right to use navigable streams for navigation and commerce, but title of the
subjacent soil belongs to the riparian owner).
16
recognizing paramount public navigation rights based on this public highways language from the
Northwest Ordinance.
84
Throughout the nineteenth century, the Oregon Supreme Court recognized the broad
public navigation rights in waters with state-owned beds, as well as those with private beds.
85
In addition, the court emphasized that when exercising navigation rights, members of the public
cannot damage riparian land or privately owned beds.
86
Thus, in early statehood, the court laid
the foundation of a broad PTD by establishing public rights to use all navigable waters for
purposes of navigation and commerce, regardless of bed ownership, while also recognizing that
the public cannot unreasonably interfere with landowner rights.
87
Then, in its 1893 decision of Shively v. Bowlby,
88
the United States Supreme Court
affirmed an Oregon Supreme Court decision that the PTD burdened both tidelands and navigable
waters, explaining that the state owns these resources in its sovereign capacity in “a public trust
for the benefit of the whole community, to be freely used by all for navigation and fishery.”
89
The Shively Court ruled that, even if the state conveyed interests in tidelands to private
landowners, the title remained “subject [] to the paramount right of navigation.”
90
The Court
observed that private title or jus privatum, whether in the King or in a subject, is held subject to
84
See Dunning, supra note 6, § 30.06 (describing the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 as a basis of the PTD in states
like Wisconsin, Missouri, and Mississippi, and noting similar language in the statehood acts of Massachusetts, New
Hampshire, and Alaska). Arkansas has also recognized that the PTD is based on the “public highways” language
derived from the Northwest Ordinance. Id. §30.06(c).
85
Weise, 3 Or. 445, 450 (1869) (recognizing public rights to float logs on navigable-in-fact waters with privately
owned beds); Felger, 3 Or. 455, 458 (1869) (recognizing public rights to float logs in seasonally navigable streams
with privately owned beds); Shaw v. Oswego Iron Co., 10 Or. 371, 372, 383 (1882) (enjoining a riparian sawmill
owner from diverting water in a way that interfered with log floats); Johnson v. Jeldness, 167 P. 798, 799 (Or. 1917)
(rejecting a littoral landowner’s attempt to exclude the public to establish an exclusive fishery).
86
Weise, 3 Or. at 451 (“If he has a right to meddle with the bank, it is only an incidental one. Although the riparian
owner has an absolute right to enjoy his land, . . . the [public] has an absolute right . . . to navigate the stream.
Neither one can justly deprive the other of his rights.”).
87
Id. at 45051 (noting that “[i]f there had been no necessity for fastening the boom to the plaintiff’s land . . . it
would have been a trespass”).
88
152 U.S. 1, 5455, 58 (1893), aff’d sub nom. Bowlby v. Shively, 30 P. 154 (Or. 1892) (holding that title to
tidelands purchased from the state continues to be subject to paramount public navigation rights).
89
Shively, 152 U.S. at 16 (quoting passages of Lord Hale’s treatise).
90
Id. at 5254.
17
the public right, jus publicum, of navigation and fishing.”
91
In the early twentieth century, the
Oregon Supreme Court continued to recognize that the jus publicum burdens all navigable
waters, even those with privately owned beds, and soon ruled that it protects recreation within
the scope of public navigation rights.
92
B. Public Recreational Rights
In 1918, Oregon became one of the first states to recognize recreation as commerce
protected under the public navigation easement.
93
Most states now recognize recreation as a
public use purpose of the PTD, which burdens all navigable-in-fact waters capable of floatation
by small craft.
94
Although the Oregon Supreme Court has not addressed public use rights in
navigable waters since the mid-1930s, the principle of broad public rights in all navigable waters
regardless of bed ownership was well established long ago in Oregon law.
First, in Guilliams v. Beaver Lake Club, the 1918 Oregon Supreme Court upheld a trial
court ruling that a landowner could not build a flood control dam that would interfere with public
use of a nearby lagoon for recreation during high water.
95
The court also affirmed an injunction
preventing the landowner from maintaining a wire fence across the stream to prevent the public
91
Id. at 1314, 16, 25 (citing Lord Hale, English common law decisions, and a Virginia attorney general opinion).
92
See infra Part III.B.
93
See infra notes 95113 (discussing the Guilliams decision). The Minnesota Supreme Court first recognized public
rights to use all waters for recreational purposes, regardless of bed ownership in 1893, in Lamprey v. Metcalf, 53
N.W. 1139, 1143 (Minn. 1893) (“Certainly, we do not see why boating or sailing for pleasure should not be
considered navigation, as well as boating for mere pecuniary profit. . . . To hand over all these lakes to private
ownership, under any old or narrow test of navigability, would be a great wrong upon the public for all time, the
extent of which cannot, perhaps, be now even anticipated.”).
94
See generally Robin Kundis Craig, A Comparative Guide to the Western States’ Public Trust Doctrines: Public
Values, Private Rights, and the Evolution Toward an Ecological Public Trust, 37 ECOLOGY L.Q. 53, 7275 (2010)
(describing public use rights in recreational waters in North Dakota, Oklahoma, California, Oregon, and Alaska);
Robin Kundis Craig, A Comparative Guide to the Eastern Public Trust Doctrines: Classification of States, Property
Rights, and State Summaries, 16 PENN. ST. ENVTL. L. REV. 1, 14, 18 & n.99 (2007) (explaining that the PTD
includes recreational purposes in Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, New
Jersey, North Carolina, and Vermont).
95
175 P. 437, 443 (Or. 1918). Although the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order enjoining the
landowner from building a dam, the court modified the order to allow landowner to construct the dam if he could
avoid interfering with public uses by constructing a channel. Id. The trial court enjoined the landowner from
constructing another dam because the first dam he constructed washed out during a storm. Id. The facts of the case
involved riparians with rowboats, but it was unclear whether they were for private recreational use or for
commercial use for tourists. Id. at 438.
18
from fishing and recreating, even though the landowner owned the streambed.
96
Following the
Minnesota decision of Lamprey v. Metcalf,
97
the Guilliams court recognized broad public rights
to recreate in navigable-for-public-use waters, even those overlying private beds, not merely
navigable-for-title waters acquired by the state upon admission to the Union.
98
In Guilliams, the court did not consider whether the streambeds at issue were navigable-
for-title because the parties “conceded . . . that such title is in the riparian proprietors.
99
But the
court explained that “[w]hatever may be the title to the bed of such streams or bodies of water . .
. they do not own the water itself, but only the use of it as it flows past their property.”
100
Even
though the riparian landowner owned the streambed, the court ruled that the stream was
impressed with a public navigation easement, so the public had a right to recreate in rowboats,
engage in commerce with scows,
101
and fish for trout during the summer months.
102
The Guilliams court reasoned that recreation was a form of commerce within the scope of
the public navigation easement, explaining:
Even confining the definition of navigability, as many courts do, to suitability for
the purposes of trade and commerce, we fail to see why commerce should not be
construed to include the use of boats and vessels for the purposes of pleasure. The
vessel carrying a load of passengers to a picnic is in law just as much engaged in
commerce as the one carrying grain or other merchandise.
103
Thus, the Oregon court was a pioneer in recognizing recreation as commerce guaranteed under
the public navigation easement, now the rule in the many states that recognize the PTD protects
96
Id. at 44243.
97
53 N.W. 1139 (Minn. 1893); see supra note 93.
98
Guilliams, 175 P. at 442 (quoting Lamprey v. Metcalf, 53 N.W. 1139, 1143 (Minn. 1893)).
99
Id. at 441.
100
Id.
101
Id. at 438, 442 (mentioning use of the stream by scows). Scows are flat-bottomed boats with square ends used to
haul freight. WEBSTERS THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE 2038 (Philip
Babcock Gove ed., 2002).
102
Guilliams, 175 P. at 438, 442 (discussing use of the stream for trout fishing during the summer).
103
Id. at 441. It was unclear from the court’s decision whether the riparian landowners’ rowboats mentioned in
Guilliams were for private use or commercial tourism, although tourism was common near Oregon beaches at that
time. See generally STRATON, supra note 30 (describing the history of public use of Oregon beaches); Or. Pub.
Broad., Oregon Experience, Timeline: The Beach Bill,
http://www.opb.org/programs/oregonexperiencearchive/beachbill/timeline.php (last visited Nov. 2, 2011) (providing
a timeline of the Beach Bill).
19
public rights to navigate, fish, and recreate in all navigable waters, regardless of bed
ownership.
104
Following the 1889 Shaw decision,
105
Guilliams upheld public rights to use waters over
privately owned beds for recreational purposes, even though not suitable for large-scale
commerce, so long as they were capable of floatation by small craft.
106
Relying again on
Lamprey, the court explained that if waters “are capable of use for boating, even for pleasure,
they are navigable, within the reason and spirit of the common-law rule.”
107
The court
emphasized that a riparian owner’s land title is subject to the superior right of the public to use
the water for the purposes of transportation and trade,
108
stating that “courts should not lightly
consign [public highways] to unrestricted private ownership.”
109
Consequently, by 1918, the
Oregon Supreme Court recognized paramount public recreational rights in all waters floatable by
small craft.
The Guilliams court explained that the public navigation easement is broad, and that
protected public uses of waterways may change over time.
110
The court again quoted the
Minnesota Lamprey decision for the proposition that public navigation easement protects an
expansive range of navigational and commercial uses, including “sailing, rowing, fishing,
fowling, bathing, skating, taking water for domestic, agricultural, and even city purposes, cutting
104
Guilliams, 175 P. at 441; see Dunning, supra note 6, §§ 32.03, 32.03(a) (describing how many states first
determined the scope of the PTD using a log floatation test, but since the mid-nineteenth century, over ten states
have adopted the so-called pleasure boat test, including Arkansas, California, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio,
Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Wyoming). Professor Dunning could add Oregon to this list based on
Guilliams, Luscher, and the 2005 AG Opinion. See 2005 AG Opinion, supra note 9, at 13 (describing public rights
to use waters over privately owned beds for recreational purposes under the public use doctrine); supra notes 3637
and accompanying text (describing the AG’s recognition of public rights to use waters over privately owned beds for
recreational purposes in Guilliams and Luscher).
105
See supra notes 8083 and accompanying text (discussing Shaw).
106
Guilliams, 175 P. at 43942.
107
Id. at 442 (quoting Lamprey v. Metcalf, 53 N.W. 1139, 1144 (Minn. 1893)).
108
Id. at 439.
109
Id. at 441. Interpreting language from the Statehood Act and Northwest Ordinance, the court explained that in
navigable waters, “the public has an easement for the purposes of navigation and commerce, they being deemed
public highways for such purposes.” Id. at 43940.
110
Id. at 442 (quoting Lamprey v. Metcalf, 53 N.W. 1139, 114344 (Minn. 1893)).
20
ice, and other public purposes which cannot now be enumerated or even anticipated.”
111
Landowners “do not own the water itself, but only the use of it as it flows past their property.
112
As a consequence of public water ownership and public navigation rights, the court followed
Lamprey, agreeing that landowners cannot interfere with public use of waters for protected
purposes, including navigation, fishing, commerce, and recreation.
113
In its next decision on public recreational rights, the 1936 decision of Luscher v.
Reynolds, the Oregon Supreme Court continued to emphasize the breadth of public rights in
waters overlying privately owned beds.
114
The case centered on the extent of public rights to use
Blue Lake, a small and popular lake near Portland with privately owned beds.
115
Affirming the
lower court, the court held that a seller did not breach his title warranty by conveying the bed of
Blue Lake because in fact he, and not the state, owned the lakebed.
116
The court explained that
even though the lakebed was privately owned, the lake was open for public recreational use
because recreation is a form of commerce within the scope of the public navigation easement.
117
Describing Guilliams as “well-considered,” the Luscher court explained that “[r]egardless of the
ownership of the bed, the public has the paramount right to the use of the waters . . . for the
purpose of transportation and commerce,” including recreational boating.
118
The court reiterated
the breadth of public recreational rights in all navigable-in-fact waters:
111
Id. (quoting Lamprey v. Metcalf, 53 N.W. 1139, 1143 (Minn. 1893)).
112
Id. at 441.
113
See id. at 442 (quoting Lamprey v. Metcalf, 53 N.W. 1139, 1143 (Minn. 1893)). The court explained that where
actual navigability of the water exists, courts should not lightly consign them to unrestricted private ownership.
Whatever may be the title to the bed . . . [riparian landowners] do not own the water itself, but only the use of it as it
flows past their property.” Id. at 441.
114
56 P.2d 1158, 1162 (Or. 1936). (recognizing public recreational rights in navigable-in-fact waters, not only
navigable-for-title waters because “[t]here are hundreds of similar beautiful, small inland lakes in this state well
adapted for recreational purposes, but which will never be used as highways of commerce in the ordinary
acceptation of such terms”).
115
Id. at 1159, 1162 (determining that for Blue Lake, the “title to the bed is in the adjacent owners, subject however
to the superior right of the public to use the water for the purposes of commerce and transportation”).
116
The buyer alleged that the seller failed to disclose that the state held title to the portion of the bed of Blue Lake at
issue, but the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed that the seller validly conveyed private title to the lakebed. Id. at
1161.
117
Id. at 1162.
118
Id.
21
“Commerce” has a broad and comprehensive meaning. It is not limited to
navigation for pecuniary profit. A boat used for the transportation of pleasure
seeking passengers is, in a legal sense, as much engaged in commerce as is a
vessel transporting a shipment of lumber. There are hundreds of similar beautiful,
small inland lakes in this state well adapted for recreational purposes, but which
will never be used as highways of commerce in the ordinary acceptation of such
terms. . . . “To hand over all these lakes to private ownership, under any old or
narrow test of navigability, would be a great wrong upon the public for all time,
the extent of which cannot, perhaps, be now even anticipated.”
119
Thus, in both Guilliams and Luscher, the Oregon Supreme Court recognized public rights to
recreate in all navigable-in-fact waters in Oregon and anticipated that public uses of waterways
would evolve over time.
120
The term “public trust doctrine” was not widespread until Professor Sax published his
seminal article in 1970.
121
Yet over thirty years before his article, the Oregon Supreme Court
recognized public recreational rights in navigable-in-fact waters in its decisions of Guilliams and
Luscher.
122
As the AG pointed out in his 2005 opinion, “[n]o cases decided since Guilliams and
Luscher contradict or erode their holdings.”
123
In both decisions, the Oregon Supreme Court
recognized public rights in navigable-for-public-use waters capable of recreation by small craft
as public highways, invoking language from the Oregon Statehood Act that was adopted from
the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
124
The Statehood Act stipulates that “[a]ll the navigable waters
. . . shall be common highways and forever free,
125
and the Oregon Supreme Court recognized
broad public rights on waters with private beds in Weise, Felger, Shaw, Gullliams, and
Luscher.
126
These decisions demonstrate that the Oregon PTD is not restricted to publicly owned
119
Id. (quoting Guilliams, 175 P. at 442).
120
For examples of other cases adopting the recreation-use test for navigability, see State v. McIlroy, 595 S.W.2d
659, 66465 (Ark. 1980) (adopting a recreational use test of navigability under the PTD); Kelley ex rel. MacMullan
v. Hallden, 214 N.W.2d 856, 86263 & n.11 (Mich. Ct. App. 1974); J.J.N.P. Co. v. State, 655 P.2d 1133, 1137 &
n.4 (Utah 1982).
121
See supra note 5 and accompanying text (discussing Professor Sax’s article).
122
Luscher, 56 P.2d at 1162 (quoting Guilliams, 175 P. at 442).
123
2005 AG Opinion, supra note 9, at 24.
124
See Luscher, 56 P.2d at 1162 (quoting Guilliams, 175 P. at 439) (describing navigable in fact waters as “public
highways”).
125
Oregon Statehood Act, ch. 33, § 2, 11 Stat. 383 (1859).
126
See supra Part III.A; see also Johnson v. Jeldness, 167 P. 798, 799 (Or. 1917) (rejecting a littoral landowner’s
attempt to claim an exclusive fishery because the Oregon Statehood Act established a public right of fishery) (citing
Oregon Statehood Act, § 2).
22
lands underlying navigable-for-title waters as the AG contended, but instead springs from the
“common highways” provision of the Statehood Act, the public ownership of water, and the
state’s common law duty to preserve the jus publicum, to protect public rights to use all
navigable-for-public-use waters in the state.
127
IV. PUBLIC RIGHTS IN WATER, WILDLIFE, BEACHES, AND UPLANDS UNDER THE OREGON PTD
As explained above, considerable Oregon Supreme Court precedent supports a broad
PTD protecting public rights to use all navigable-in-fact waters for navigation, commerce,
fishing, and recreation, regardless of bed ownership.
128
In recent years, courts in other western
states have applied the PTD to the allocation of water rights.
129
In addition, states like Montana,
New Jersey, and California have recognized that these public rights in natural resources impose
certain duties on the state, such as providing public access, obtaining full market value for
private use of public resources, and maintaining PTD resources for future generations.
130
Oregon
127
The AG did not address the effect of the language in the Oregon Statehood Act but noted in his discussion of the
PTD that the state’s duty to protect the public interest in waterways “may derive from the terms of the Oregon
Admissions Act,” although he again assumed that this duty would apply only to state-owned waters. 2005 AG
Opinion, supra note 9, at 15 & n.13.
128
See supra notes 50, 6783, 9294, 103, 10508, 11020 and accompanying text (discussing judicial recognition
of evolving public rights including navigation, fishing, commerce, and recreation in all navigable-in-fact waters in
Oregon).
129
Like the California Supreme Court in its Mono Lake decision, the Oregon Supreme Court should recognize that
the both the PTD and state water code impose a duty on the state to “continuously supervise” water rights to protect
public trust resources. Nat’l Audubon Soc’y v. Super. Ct. of Alpine Cnty. (Mono Lake), 658 P.2d 709, 721 (Cal.
1983) (en banc), cert. denied sub nom. L.A. Dep’t of Water & Power v. Nat’l Audubon Soc’y, 464 U.S. 977 (1983);
see also In re Water Use Permit Applications, 9 P.3d 409, 448 (Haw. 2000) (recognizing that the PTD burdens water
rights to protect public navigation, commerce, fishing, and recreation, including bathing, swimming, boating, and
scenic viewing and incorporates the precautionary principle); United Plainsmen Ass’n v. N.D. State Water
Conservation Comm’n, 247 N.W.2d 457, 462 (N.D. 1976) (stating that the Public Trust Doctrine requires, at a
minimum, a determination of the potential effect of the allocation of water on the present water supply and future
water needs of this State” to ensure that water rights are allocated and regulated without detriment to the public
interest in the lands and waters remaining”). This principle also applies to wildlife. See infra notes 21015 and
accompanying text (discussing Center for Biological Diversity v. FPL Group, 83 Cal. Rptr. 3d 588 (Cal. Ct. App.
2008)).
130
Montana recognizes that its citizens have a fundamental right to a healthful environment, and that the public can
use all waters capable of recreational use for recreational purposes. Sunburst School Dist. No. 2 v. Texaco, Inc., 165
P.3d 1079, 1092 (Mont. 2007) (recognizing “[t]he right to a clean and healthful environment constitutes a
fundamental right” of all Montanans) (citing Mont. Const. art. IX, § 3; Mont. Envtl. Info. Ctr. v. Dep’t of Envtl.
Quality, 988 P.2d 1236, 1246 (Mont. 1999)); Mont. Coal. for Stream Access, Inc. v. Curran, 682 P.2d 163, 17071
(Mont. 1984) (recognizing that under the codification of public ownership of water in Article 9, Section 3 of the
1972 Constitution, “any surface waters that are capable of recreational use may be so used by the public without
regard to streambed ownership or navigability for nonrecreational purposes”); Galt v. State Dep’t of Fish, Wildlife,
and Parks, 731 P.2d 912, 915 (Mont. 1987) (explaining that “the public’s right to use the waters includes the right of
23
courts should similarly recognize that as sovereign owner of the state’s water and wildlife, the
state has a trust duty to protect public uses of navigable waters and wildlife by regulating water
rights to maintain water flows, water quality, and habitat.
131
Further, Oregon courts should view
the public’s rights to use ocean beaches, which the Oregon Supreme Court upheld under the
doctrine of custom, as part of the state’s PTD.
132
A. Water Rights
Oregon courts have yet to consider whether the PTD burdens existing water rights
133
but
they should acknowledge that the PTD requires the state to manage water rights as public trustee
based on the state’s longstanding recognition of public ownership of water and the paramount
public rights in navigable-for-public-use waters. For decades, both the legislature and state
officials have recognized that public instream uses can impose limits on the amount of water
available for appropriation, but this recognition has not slowed water consumption, and Oregon
surface and groundwater levels remain insufficient to support fish habitat and recreation during
summer months.
134
In 2009, the legislature took note that surface water in the state was almost
completely appropriated in the summer, and that groundwater supplies have declined
use of the bed and banks up to the high water mark even though the fee title in the land resides with the adjoining
landowners”) (citing Mont. Coal. for Stream Access, Inc. v. Curran, 682 P.2d 163 (Mont. 1984); Mont. Coal. for
Stream Access, Inc. v. Hildreth, 684 P.2d 1088 (Mont. 1984)). In New Jersey, the PTD provides public access to
privately owned beaches. Raleigh Ave. Beach Ass’n v. Atlantis Beach Club, Inc., 879 A.2d 112, 124 (N.J. 2005)
(holding that a private beach club in an area with no public beaches “must be available for use by the general public
under the public trust doctrine,” though it could charge a reasonable management fee); Mono Lake, 658 P.2d at 721
(explaining that the PTD imposes a duty on the state of “continued supervision over the trust” to maintain water and
wildlife resources).
131
See infra Part IV.AB (discussing sovereign water and wildlife ownership, as well as common law and statutory
efforts to protect these resources).
132
See infra Part IV.C (discussing public rights to use Oregon beaches as public highways).
133
See WaterWatch of Or., Inc. v. Water Res. Comm’n, 112 P.3d 443, 446, 453 (Or. Ct. App. 2005) (declining to
consider whether the Water Resources Commission violated its public trust duty by allowing groundwater
withdrawals to deplete surface water flows, after concluding that the Commission violated a statutory directive to
maintain stream flows in quantities that it had established as necessary for fish, wildlife, and recreation).
134
See generally Robert Davíd Pilz, Comment, At the Confluence: Oregon’s Instream Water Rights Law in Theory
and Practice, 36 ENVTL. L. 1383, 1395 (2006) (describing practical limitations on Oregon’s instream water rights,
including lack of enforcement resources, local opposition, administrative obstacles, and challenges to instream
transfers).
24
precipitously in some parts of the state.
135
Because the prior appropriation system of water rights
is based on the state’s ownership of water,
136
Oregon courts should acknowledge that the PTD
burdens all appropriated water rights, imposing an affirmative duty on the state to maintain
streamflows and water quality.
137
Other western states like Idaho, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming have
acknowledged that the PTD is based on both public ownership of water and public navigation
rights guaranteed under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787,
138
not sovereign ownership of beds or
banks, as the 2005 AG opinion assumed.
139
Since 1909, Oregon’s water code has declared:
“All water within the State from all sources of water supply belong to the public.
140
Three-and-
135
Act of Aug. 4, 2009, ch. 907, 2009 Or. Laws 3237, 3237 (“Whereas surface water is almost completely allocated
across Oregon during summer months, ground water levels have declined precipitously in several areas and the
hydrological connection between surface water and ground water levels is significant; and [w]hereas Oregon needs
to develop an integrated statewide water management plan . . . .”). By mid-century, some Oregon waters had
appropriated rights of more than double their flow. Janet Neuman et al., Sometimes A Great Notion: Oregon’s
Instream Flow Experiments, 36 ENVTL. L. 1125, 1133 (2006). In 1954, Governor Patterson denounced the
“promiscuous, unlimited filing of water rights” that was destroying water resources. Id. at 1137 & n.65, 1145 &
n.118. Although the legislature overhauled the state water code in response in 1955, its instream flow provisions did
little to remedy depleted streamflows and water quality. Id. at 1148 (concluding that “[t]he 1955 Water Code
overhaul, though revolutionary for its time, did not fulfill its promise to Oregon’s rivers”). In 1987, the legislature
amended the water code again to authorize instream water rights, allowing private parties and specified government
agencies to purchase water rights with senior priority dates. OR. REV. STAT. § 537.336 (1987); see generally Janet C.
Neuman, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The First Ten Years of the Oregon Water Trust, 83 NEB. L. REV. 432
(2004) (concluding that “water markets are indeed useful tools that can allow water to move to legitimate demands
voluntarily”).
136
The 1909 Oregon Water Code declared that “[a]ll water within the State from all sources of water supply belong
to the public.” Act of Feb. 24, 1909, ch. 221, 1909 Or. Laws 370, 370 (codified as amended at OR. REV. STAT. §§
53658 (2011)).
137
See, e.g., United Plainsmen Ass’n v. N.D. State Water Conservation Comm’n, 247 N.W.2d 457, 462 (N.D. 1976)
(interpreting the public interest language of the state water code to adopt the PTD and explaining that the Public
Trust Doctrine requires, at a minimum, a determination of the potential effect of the allocation of water on the
present water supply and future water needs of this State” to ensure that water rights are allocated and regulated
“without detriment to the public interest in the lands and waters remaining”); Mono Lake, 658 P.2d 709, 732 (Cal.
1983) (en banc) (ruling that “public trust doctrine and the appropriative water rights system are parts of an integrated
system of water law”), cert. denied sub nom. L.A. Dep’t of Water & Power v. Nat’l Audubon Soc’y, 464 U.S. 977
(1983); In re Water Use Permit Applications, 9 P.3d 409, 448 (Haw. 2000) (explaining that the PTD burdens water
rights to protect public uses for navigation, commerce, fishing, and recreation).
138
See Dunning, supra note 6, § 30.04 (describing the evolution of the public ownership of water in Idaho,
Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming).
139
2005 AG Opinion, supra note 9, at 15 (connecting the PTD to state submerged land ownership).
140
Act of Feb. 24, 1909, ch. 221, § 1, 1909 Or. Laws 319, 370. A 1932 initiative amending the state constitution
allowed for hydroelectric development, while recognizing that the public’s ownership of water and lands under
water power sites in perpetuity. See OR. CONST. art. XI-D, § 1 (“The rights, title and interest in and to all water for
the development of water power and to water power sites, which the state of Oregon now owns or may hereafter
acquire, shall be held by it in perpetuity.”). In 2010, the Montana Supreme Court relied on a similar statutory
25
a-half decades later, in 1955, the legislature reiterated in the state groundwater code the same
public ownership language from the water code.
141
The legislature recognized public ownership
of water as recently as 2009.
142
Public ownership of water provides additional support for the Oregon Supreme Court’s
consistent recognition of broad public commercial and recreational rights in the state’s
navigable-in-fact waters.
143
Indeed, in the 1918 Guilliams decision, the Oregon Supreme Court
suggested that public rights are a consequence of both public water ownership and the public
navigation easement.
144
The court observed that the public had the right to float logs on streams
with private beds because landowners “do not own the water itself, but only the use of it as it flows
past their property.”
145
Public ownership of water is therefore a basis of the state’s PTD, meaning
that, as trustee, the state has a duty to manage water resources for the benefit of present and future
generations, including an obligation to remedy overappropriation of waterways.
146
provision from the same era to uphold the state’s ability to charge rent for the use of beds underlying dams on all
navigable-in-fact waters to compensate for damages to trust resources, explaining that the state had a duty to seek
this compensation that was not extinguished by the state’s failure to meet its duty for over a century. PPL Mont.,
L.L.C. v. State, 229 P.3d 421, 430, 461 (Mont. 2010), cert. granted, 131 S. Ct. 3019 (2011) (mem.).
141
OR. REV. STAT. § 537.525 (2009) (“The Legislative Assembly recognizes, declares and finds that the right to
reasonable control of all water within this state from all sources of water supply belongs to the public, and that in
order to insure the preservation of the public welfare, safety and health . . . .”).
142
Act of July 1, 2009, ch. 907, 2009 Or. Laws 3237, 3238 (declaring that all water within Oregon belongs to the
public pursuant to law,” authorizing the Water Resources Department to make loans or grants for the construction of
water development projects in the Columbia River Basin).
143
See Dunning, supra note 6, § 30.04 (describing how the PTD in some states is grounded in public ownership of
water); see also supra notes 51, 6785, 94120 and accompanying text. Based on public ownership of water, the
Montana Supreme Court has repeatedly explained that “any surface waters that are capable of recreational use may
be so used by the public without regard to streambed ownership or navigability for nonrecreational purposes.” Mont.
Coal. for Stream Access, Inc. v. Curran, 682 P.2d 163, 17071 (Mont. 1984); see also Mont. Coal. for Stream
Access, Inc. v. Hildreth, 684 P.2d 1088, 1091 (Mont. 1984); Galt v. State Dep’t of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, 731
P.2d 912, 913 (Mont. 1987); In re Adjudication of Existing Rights to the Use of All the Water, 55 P.3d 396, 404
(Mont. 2002) (discussing Curran and explaining that “[u]nder the Constitution and the public trust doctrine, the
public has an instream, non-diversionary right to the recreational use of the State’s navigable surface waters”
(emphasis in original)).
144
Guilliams, 175 P. 437, 441 (Or. 1918) (concluding that “[w]hatever may be the title to the bed of such streams or
bodies of water . . . [riparian landowners] do not own the water itself, but only the use of it as it flows past their
property”).
145
Id.; see supra notes 10003 and accompanying text.
146
See generally supra notes 137, 143, and accompanying text (describing public water ownership as a basis of the
PTD in North Dakota and Montana).
26
Both the courts and the legislature have recognized that the PTD’s preferences for public
water uses places limitations on water appropriations.
147
Beginning in the late 1800s, the
legislature withdrew waterways from appropriation on an ad hoc basis, in order to protect public
water uses like municipal water supplies.
148
Then, in 1915, the legislature withdrew streams and
waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge from appropriation to “preserve the[ir] scenic beauty”
and promote tourism.
149
In 1939, the Oregon Supreme Court explained that water rights holders
could not pollute waterways in a manner that interfered with commercial fishing practices.
150
Later, in the 1950s, the legislature added minimum streamflow provisions to the water code in
order to preserve water for public uses.
151
Thus, the legislature has long attempted to reign in
consumptive water uses that adversely affect public trust waters, but without significant
success.
152
147
See infra notes 15275 and accompanying text.
148
See generally Portland Water Bureau, The Bull Run Watershed,
http://www.portlandonline.com/water/index.cfm?c=29461 (last visited April 28, 2011) (describing how Bull Run
water was piped to Portland beginning in 1895). The 1909 Water Code reserved Bull Run Creek from appropriation
to provide drinking water for the City of Portland. Act of Feb. 24, 1909, ch. 216, § 71, 1909 Or. Laws 319, 342
(codified as amended at OR. REV. STAT. §§ 536558 (2011)).
149
Act of Feb. 9, 1915, ch. 36, 1915 Or. Laws 49, 49 (codified as amended at OR. REV. STAT. § 538.200 (2011));
see Bowen Blair, Jr., The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area: The Act, Its Genesis and Legislative History,
17 ENVTL. L. 863, 87071, 878 (1987).
150
In Columbia River Fishermen’s Protective Union v. City of St. Helens, 87 P.2d 195 (Or. 1939), the Oregon
Supreme Court ruled that licensed commercial fishermen had standing to sue the City of St. Helens and pulp and
paper mills that discharged sewage, chemicals, and waste into the Columbia River destroying fish populations and
fishermen’s nets. Id. at 196–97 (recognizing plaintiff’s standing because in addition to depleting fish populations,
“the pollution of said waters . . . rott[ed] and destroy[ed] their nets and lines . . . in the sum of $3,000”).
151
In 1955, the legislature substantially revised the state water code, authorizing certain government agencies to
obtain instream water rights. Act of May 26, 1955, ch. 707, §§ 1214, 1955 Or. Laws 924, 93031. But this revision
proved unsuccessful because of administrative problems and because instream rights did not affect prior existing
appropriated water rights. See Neuman et al., supra note 135, at 1135, 1146 (describing problems with the instream
flow provisions of the 1955 water code, and providing background on the events precipitating the enactment of the
1955 Water Code, including the Federal Power Commission’s approval of a federal project on the Deschutes River
despite the state’s objection because of interference with public use of the water for fisheries, recreation, and scenic
purposes); id. at 1131 (explaining that [t]he code required the state engineer to approve a permit for beneficial use
of water unless the proposed use conflicted with determined rights ‘or [was] a menace to the safety and welfare of
the public’; in such a case, the application was to be referred to the Board of Control for decision and denial if ‘the
public interest demands’” (quoting Act of Feb. 24, 1909, ch. 216, 1909 Or. Laws 319)).
152
Although the 1909 Water Code allowed the State Engineer to deny permits for beneficial use of water if “the
public interest demanded” because the proposed use conflicted with existing rights or was a menace to the safety
and welfare of the public,” Professor Neuman has explained that the state never established instream rights or denied
permits based on that provision. Neuman et al., supra note 135, at 1131 (discussing Act of Feb. 24, 1909, ch. 216,
1909 Or. Laws 319); see also Neuman, supra note 135, at 438 (explaining that [t]he problem with instream rights
27
In 1987, the Oregon Legislature amended the water code to authorize instream rights to
protect public trust water uses.
153
The Act enabled state agencies to acquire instream flow rights
to protect public water uses including 1) recreation; 2) conservation, maintenance and
enhancement of aquatic life, fish, wildlife, habitat, and “any other ecological values;” 3)
pollution abatement; and 4) navigation.
154
Recognizing the paramount importance of public
ownership of water, the legislature included findings that the grant of an instream water right
“shall not diminish the public’s rights in the ownership and control of the waters of this state or
the public trust therein.
155
Under the Act, private parties can also purchase instream rights,
which then must be conveyed to and “held in trust by the Water Resources Department for the
benefit of the people of the State of Oregon to maintain water in-stream for public use.”
156
Although the legislature declared that the state’s water resources have been impaired by “single-
purpose power or influence over the water resources” and ordered implementation of a
coordinated water policy that would serve both instream and out-of stream needs,
157
overappropriation continues to be a problem, and the courts have a role in ensuring that the state
fulfills its trustee duties by mediating disputes between consumptive and instream uses to protect
public water use rights.
158
Statutes can help the courts define the bounds of the state’s duty to manage water rights
under the PTD for the benefit of the publicthe beneficiaries of the trust.
159
The product of a
created by conversion of minimum streamflows or by new state agency applications is that those two categories of
instream rights have fairly junior priority dates,” but instream rights purchased under the 1987 amendments retain
senior priority dates). However, because most instream flow rights have relatively junior priority dates, “Oregon’s
flowing streams are still in jeopardy.” Neuman et al., supra note 135, at 1148; accord Joseph Q. Kaufman, An
Analysis of Developing Instream Water Rights in Oregon, 28 WILLAMETTE L. REV. 285, 30305 (1992).
153
OR. REV. STAT. § 537.334(1) (2011) (recognizing that “[p]ublic uses are beneficial uses”).
154
Id. § 537.332(5).
155
Id. § 537.334(2).
156
Id. § 537.332(3); see Jack Sterne, Instream Rights & Invisible Hands: Prospects for Private Instream Water
Rights in the Northwest, 27 ENVTL. L. 203, 213 (1997) (“The department’s position is that any person who leases,
purchases, or receives as a gift a water right and converts it to instream flow must transfer the right to the
department to hold in trust for the people of Oregon.”).
157
OR. REV. STAT. § 536.220(1)(c), (2)(a), (3)(a).
158
See supra notes 13336 and accompanying text.
159
See Dunning, supra note 6, § 31.03 (describing how the PTD has developed to include judicial supervision of
administrative action to guarantee environmental preservation); see also WaterWatch of Or., Inc. v. Water Res.
28
citizen initiative, the Scenic Waterways Act of 1970
160
provides an apt statement of the state’s
duties when managing public trust water resources in Oregon.
161
Consistent with paramount
public navigation rights first recognized by the Oregon Supreme Court in its 1869 Weise
decision,
162
the Scenic Waterways Act recognized that the “highest and best uses of the waters
within scenic waterways are recreation, fish and wildlife uses” and specified that “[t]he free-
flowing character of these waters shall be maintained in quantities necessary for recreation, fish
and wildlife uses.”
163
The statute applies to designated scenic waters and related adjacent land,
prohibiting new groundwater appropriations that would adversely affect public fishing,
navigation, and recreation rights in scenic waterways.
164
The Water Resources Commission must
deny permits for groundwater appropriations that reduce flows of scenic waterways, unless the
applicant mitigates damage to public uses under a “no-diminishment standard.”
165
The state has a duty under the PTD to protect public water resources for public uses
consistent with “no-diminishmenttrust principles, and statutes may help define when the state
has failed to meet its duty and owes compensation to the trust.
166
In its 1979 decision of Morse v.
Comm’n, 112 P.3d 443, 444–45 (Or. Ct. App. 2005) (recognizing that a flyfisherman has standing to challenge rules
for groundwater appropriations that could adversely affect his use of a river for fishing and recreation).
160
OR. REV. STAT. §§ 390.805390.925 (2011).
161
Id.; see generally Charles C. Reynolds, Protecting Oregon’s Free-Flowing Water, 19 ENVTL. L. 841, 842, 848
51 (1989) (describing events precipitating the passage of the voter’s initiative that enacted the Scenic Waterways Act
of 1970, which protected 496 river miles for recreational and scenic purposes).
162
See supra notes 6974 and accompanying text.
163
OR. REV. STAT. § 390.835(1) (2011). The 1970 initiative acknowledged broad and evolving public rights in water
and wildlife resources by declaring that designated scenic lakes and rivers “possess outstanding scenic, fish,
wildlife, geological, botanical, historic, archaeologic, and outdoor recreation values of present and future benefit to
the public.” Id. § 390.815.
164
Id. § 390.805 (defining “scenic waterway” as Waldo Lake and designated waterways, and “related adjacent
land” as “all land within one-fourth of one mile of the bank on the side . . . except land that, in the [State Parks and
Recreation Department’s] judgment, does not affect the view from the waters within a scenic waterway”).
165
WaterWatch of Or., Inc. v. Water Res. Comm’n, 112 P.3d 443, 447, 449 & n.3 (Or. Ct. App. 2005) (explaining
that the Act requires the Commission to deny an permit for groundwater use if it determines that “the use of ground
water will measurably reduce the surface water flows necessary to maintain the free-flowing character of a scenic
waterway in quantities necessary for recreation, fish, and wildlife” unless the applicant explains how it will mitigate
adverse impacts (quoting OR. REV. STAT. § 390.835(9)(a))).
166
Marshall v. Frazier, 81 P.2d 132, 134 (Or. 1938) (explaining that “[t]he question of what is a reasonable
compensation for trustees depends largely on the circumstances of each particular case, and can not be properly
determined by any inflexible rule” (quoting 26 R.C.L. Trusts, § 258)); 76 AM. JUR. 2D Trusts § 276 (2005) (“Where
the trustee makes an unauthorized conversion, transfer, or encumbrance of trust property or funds, the beneficiary of
the trust may elect to hold the trustee personally liable and accountable for this breach of trust.”); id. § 345
29
Oregon Division of State Lands,
167
the most recent case involving an interpretation of the Oregon
PTD, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed a Division of State Lands’ decision that rejected a
private landowner’s application for a wetlands fill project permit under the fill and removal
statute.
168
The court explained that the legislature enacted the wetlands fill and removal permit
program “to codify the jus publicum and to provide procedures for its orderly administration”
because “[t]he legislative history [of the fill and removal statute] reflects that the legislature was
aware of the historical public trust, was motivated by the same concerns that underlie the public
trust, and chose language which would best perpetuate it.”
169
The Oregon Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals’ reversal of the permit because
the director failed to make a finding that the public need for the project “outweigh[ed] the
detriment to the use of the waters in question for navigation, fishing and recreational
purposes.”
170
As the instream water rights statute and the Morse decisions demonstrate, Oregon
statutory law can incorporate the PTD and favor non-consumptive uses, providing support for
determinations that maintain public uses of flowing waters.
171
Oregon courts therefore should supervise the administration of water rights to ensure that
overappropriation neither unreasonably interferes with public uses nor impairs ecological
conditions.
172
Based on the cases and legislation discussed in this section, it seems evident that
(“Misapplication of the trust estate renders the trustee immediately liable for the proceeds or the value of the
property misapplied, at the option of the beneficiary.”).
167
581 P.2d 520 (Or. Ct. App. 1978), aff’d, 590 P.2d 709 (Or. 1979) (en banc).
168
Id. at 528; Morse, 590 P.2d at 715 (remanding the issuance of a permit for a fill of wetlands because the director
of the Division of State Lands failed to make findings required under the dredge and fill statute); see also Joseph L.
Sax, The Limits of Private Rights in Public Waters, 19 ENVTL. L. 473, 47374 (1989) (discussing Morse as
exemplary of water resource disputes likely to arise in the future, and the Mono Lake decision’s interpretation of the
PTD as a foundation for resolving these disputes).
169
Morse, 581 P.2d at 525.
170
Morse, 590 P.2d at 714. The court did not disturb the court of appeals’ ruling that the fill and removal statute
enacted the PTD, but it did rule, 4 to 3, that neither the PTD nor the statute banned non-water dependent uses. Id. at
712.
171
See supra notes 15969 and accompanying text.
172
See Michael C. Blumm, The Public Trust Doctrine and Private Property: The Accommodation Principle, 27
PACE ENVTL. L. REV. 649, 66263 (2010) (explaining that conveyances of trust resources are defeasible); id. at 666
(arguing that the PTD requires the state to balance public and private interests in trust resources, and explaining that
[t]his accommodation meant that there would be a balancing of public and private rights in fulfilling the trust
30
the Oregon PTD has both a common law and statutory basis.
173
Because the legislature has
recognized that all water is owned by the public,
174
and the paramount nature of public
navigation rights,
175
Oregon courts should recognize that public water use rights burden
appropriated water rights,
176
requiring the state to continuously supervise water use in the state to
ensure no damage to trust resources.
177
B. Wildlife
Sovereign ownership of wildlife originated in Roman law (ferae naturae), migrated to
English common law, and exists now in virtually every state, as wildlife is managed as a trust
resource for the benefit of the public.
178
Since the 1880s, the Oregon Supreme Court has
repeatedly recognized that the state owns fish and wildlife within its borders in this sovereign
capacity, and is able to regulate wildlife harvests to maintain populations.
179
As recently as 2011,
responsibility, which is hardly an evisceration of private property, unless private property means a kind of private
sovereignty immune from state control” (footnote omitted)).
173
The California courts recognize both a common law and statutory basis of the state’s PTD. See Envtl. Prot. &
Info. Ctr. v. Cal. Dep’t of Forestry & Fire Prot., 187 P.3d 888, 926 (Cal. 2008).
174
See supra notes 136, 14042 and accompanying text.
175
See supra notes 2, 90, 119 and accompanying text.
176
See supra notes 129, 137, and accompanying text.
177
See Mono Lake, 658 P.2d 709, 732 (Cal. 1983) (stating the “public trust doctrine and the appropriative water
rights system are parts of an integrated system of water law”), cert. denied sub nom. L.A. Dep’t of Water & Power
v. Nat’l Audubon Soc’y, 464 U.S. 977 (1983); Blumm, supra note 172, at 666 (“By imposing on the state a
continuous supervisory duty to attempt to preserve trust assets Mono Lake ruled that 1) there were no vested private
rights that limited the trust, 2) private grantees use rights were limited by the trust responsibility, and 3) the state was
not confined to erroneous past decisions.” (footnotes omitted)).
178
See generally Michael C. Blumm & Lucus Ritchie, The Pioneer Spirit and the Public Trust: The American Rule
of Capture and State Ownership of Wildlife, 35 ENVTL. L. 673, 67581, 706 (2005) (tracing the origins of the
wildlife trust doctrine and observing that the state ownership doctrine lives on . . . in virtually all states, affording
states ample authority to regulate the taking of wildlife and to protect their habitat”); THOMAS A. LUND, AMERICAN
WILDLIFE LAW 57100 (1980) (discussing the history of state and federal wildlife law); DALE D. GOBLE & ERIC T.
FREYFOGLE, WILDLIFE LAW: CASES AND MATERIALS 381409 (2d ed. 2010) (discussing the evolving role of states
holding wildlife in trust for the people).
179
See, e.g., State v. Pulos, 129 P. 128, 130 (Or. 1913) (upholding the defendant’s conviction for possessing a wild
duck out of season because the statute did not except ducks captured during open season, and explaining that “title
to wild game is in the state, and . . . the taking of them is not a right, but is a privilege, which may be restricted,
prohibited, or conditioned, as the lawmaking power may see fit”); State v. Fisher, 98 P. 713, 71415 (Or. 1908)
(explaining that the defendant could be convicted for possessing deer out of season, but had a right to present
evidence that he killed the deer during open season to avoid liability, based on an exception in the statute); State v.
Hume, 95 P. 808, 81011 (Or. 1908) (affirming the defendant’s conviction for carrying canned salmon without a
license as a valid exercise of the police power); State v. Schuman, 58 P. 661, 66263 (Or. 1899) (upholding the
defendant’s conviction for possessing trout imported from Washington under an Oregon law declaring “[i]t shall be
unlawful to sell, offer for sale, or have in possession for sale, any species of trout at any time”); State v. McGuire, 33
31
in Simpson v. Department of Fish and Wildlife,
180
the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed that the
state owns wildlife within its borders in a constructive, sovereign capacity.
181
Oregon law has long recognized that public ownership of wildlife means the state has a
duty to manage wildlife resources as sovereign trustee for the public.
182
In 1893, the Oregon
Supreme Court upheld state authority to regulate fish harvests so that fish “may have an
opportunity to propagate their species, and be preserved from extermination.”
183
Fifteen years
later, the court reiterated the state’s duty to prevent species extinction, explaining in its 1908
decision of Hume v. State that:
It is a generally recognized principle that migratory fish in the navigable
waters of a state, like game within its borders, are classed as animals ferae
naturae, the title to which, so far as that claim is capable of being asserted before
possession is obtained, is held by the state, in its sovereign capacity in trust for all
its citizens; and as an incident of the assumed ownership, the legislative assembly
may enact such laws as tend to protect the species from injury by human means
and from extinction by exhaustive methods of capture.
184
In the early 1900s, the legislature carried out its sovereign trust duty by enacting several statutes
regulating or prohibiting wildlife harvests, including the hunting, taking, or possession of species
like salmon and beavers.
185
P. 666, 667, 671 (Or. 1893) (describing the state’s authority to regulate fish and wildlife harvests and holding that
the defendants possession of salmon in closed season was not unlawful because the salmon had been caught during
the open season).
180
255 P.3d 565 (Or. Ct. App. 2011).
181
See id. at 56973 (discussing case law supporting the legislature’s assertion of sovereign ownership of wildlife
from 1921 to the present).
182
Monroe v. Withycome, 165 P. 227, 229 (Or. 1917) (“Fish are classified as feræ naturæ, and while in a state of
freedom their ownership, so far as a right of property can be asserted, is in the state, not as a proprietor, but in its
sovereign capacity for the benefit of and in trust for its people in common.”); Pulos, 129 P. at 12930; see also infra
notes 18990 and accompanying text; Mary Christina Wood, Protecting the Wildlife Trust: A Reinterpretation of
Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, 34 ENVTL. L. 605, 60812 (2004) (describing the wildlife trust as “clearly
enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in Geer v. Connecticut(citing Geer, 161 U.S. 519 (1896)). See
generally Dale D. Goble, Three Cases/Four Tales: Commons, Capture, the Public Trust, and Property in Land, 35
ENVTL. L. 807, 84647 (2005) (describing the evolution of the wildlife trust as interconnected with the development
of the state’s police power, and the idea that private property rights are not absolute).
183
McGuire, 33 P. at 668.
184
95 P. at 810.
185
See, e.g., Act of Feb 16, 1891, 1891 Or. Laws 33 (entitled an “Act to Protect Salmon and Other Food Fishes in
the State of Oregon” as amended by 1893 Or. Laws 145 (1893) (establishing salmon fishing seasons)); 1931 Or.
Laws 693 (providing that it is unlawful to trap beavers outside of open season).
32
By 1920, on at least five occasions, the Oregon Supreme Court had affirmed that the state
was sovereign owner of wildlife as trustee for the public, with concomitant power to regulate
wildlife harvests.
186
In 1921, the legislature codified Oregon’s sovereign ownership of wildlife
and power to regulate harvests, declaring that “[n]o person shall at any time or in any manner
acquire any property in . . . any of the wild game animals, fur-bearing animals, game birds,
nongame birds or game fish, or any part thereof, of the state of Oregon, but they shall always and
under all circumstances be and remain the property of the state, except . . . [when harvested as
allowed by law].”
187
Thus, early in the twentieth century the Oregon Supreme Court and the
legislature had firmly established the state’s power to regulate wildlife based on its principle of
sovereign wildlife ownership.
188
In its 2011 Simpson decision, the court of appeals explained that Oregon statutes have
acknowledged sovereign wildlife ownership since 1921 without substantial substantive
change.
189
The court rejected a contention that game farm animals were not wildlife under the
Oregon Wildlife Code, explaining that “the state’s property interest in wildlife is sovereign, not
proprietary.”
190
Both case law and statutes therefore recognize that the state’s authority to
regulate wildlife harvests is grounded not only on its police power, but also on its sovereign
ownership of wildlife.
191
Unlike the police power, however, which vests the state with the authority to regulate in
the public interest, sovereign ownership of wildlife in trust imposes an affirmative duty on the
186
See supra notes 179, 182 and accompanying text.
187
Act of Feb. 21, 1921, ch. 153, 1921 Or. Laws 267, 267.
188
See supra notes 179, 18285 and accompanying text. See generally Blumm & Ritchie, supra note 178, at 706
(identifying both the police power and sovereign ownership as the bases of the wildlife trust, and arguing that “the
state ownership doctrine lives on . . . in virtually all states, affording states ample authority to regulate the taking of
wildlife and to protect their habitat”).
189
Simpson v. Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, 255 P.3d 565, 57173 (Or. Ct. App. 2011) (explaining that changes to the
wildlife code in the 1970s were motivated by an attempt to “simplify the language and consolidate the duplicative,”
but not to change the substance of the laws).
190
Id. at 572. See generally Hughes v. Oklahoma, 441 U.S. 322, 33135 (1979) (describing the state’s constructive
ownership of wildlife as an incident of state sovereign power).
191
See supra notes 18290 and accompanying text.
33
state to maintain wildlife for the benefit of present and future generations.
192
Early American
case law established that public rights in wildlife are a component of citizenship, and the
sovereign ownership doctrine prohibits discrimination among classes of citizens with respect to
wildlife harvest rights.
193
The Oregon legislature has enacted many statutes to restore declining
wildlife populations, acknowledging the state’s duty to protect habitat and water resources in
order to maintain wildlife populations for the public benefit.
194
Because public rights in wildlife are a component of citizenship, members of the public
should have standing to enforce the state’s trust duty to maintain wildlife resources,
195
particularly when statutory remedies are unavailable.
196
The Oregon Supreme Court’s 1939 case
192
See Wood, supra note 182, at 612 (arguing that where there has been damage to trust assets, the trustees have
an affirmative duty to recoup damages and restore the corpus”); supra note 166 and accompanying text (discussing
the obligations of trustees).
193
See, e.g., Hughes, 441 U.S. at 33235 (describing how many courts have struck down laws regulating fish and
wildlife harvests that discriminated among classes of citizens under the privileges and immunities clause, but
affirming the state’s power to regulate harvests, including by prohibiting particular harvest methods).
194
For example, the policy of the Watershed Management and Enhancement Act of 1999 is to “[a]ssess[] the
conditions in each watershed to determine the quality of the existing environment, to identify the causes for declines
in habitat, fish and wildlife populations and water quality, and to assist with the development of locally integrated
action plans for watersheds that will achieve agreed-upon protection and restoration objectives.” OR. REV. STAT. §
541.895 (2011). See generally OR. DEPT OF FISH & WILDLIFE, OREGON WILDLIFE AND COMMERCIAL FISHING
CODES 5572 (2002) (including the text of miscellaneous wildlife protection statutes).
195
Oregonians have broad standing to bring suit under the state’s Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act, which states
that “[c]ourts of record within their respective jurisdictions shall have power to declare rights, status, and other legal
relations, whether or not further relief is or could be claimed.” OR. REV. STAT. § 28.010 (2011) (providing that “[n]o
action or proceeding shall be open to objection on the ground that a declaratory judgment is prayed for. The
declaration may be either affirmative or negative in form and effect, and such declarations shall have the force and
effect of a judgment”). In 2006, the Oregon Supreme Court explained that the legislature can grant “any person”
standing rights to challenge an agency rule or determination because the Oregon constitution does not include a
cases and controversies requirement like the federal constitution. Kellas v. Dep’t of Corr., 145 P.3d 139, 142 (Or.
2006). In 2010, the court clarified that the state Administrative Procedures Act requires a person be “adversely
affected or aggrieved” within the meaning of the statute. Pete’s Mtn. Homeowners Ass’n v. Or. Water Res. Dept.,
238 P.3d 395, 401 (Or. Ct. App. 2010).
196
See Blumm & Ritchie, supra note 178, at 71415 (explaining that the state has a duty to prevent substantial
impairment of trust resources following Geer v. Connecticut, 161 U.S. 519 (1896), Ill. Cent. R.R. Co. v. Illinois, 146
U.S. 387 (1892), and Mono Lake, 658 P.2d 709 (Cal. 1983), cert. denied sub nom., L.A. Dep’t of Water & Power v.
Nat’l Audubon Soc’y, 464 U.S. 977 (1983)); see also Ctr. for Biological Diversity, Inc. v. FPL Grp., Inc., 83 Cal.
Rptr. 3d 588, 601 (Cal. Ct. App. 2008) (recognizing that the public has standing to challenge agency decisions
because they do not always strike an appropriate balance between protecting trust resources and accommodating
other legitimate public interests); In re Water Use Permit Applications, 93 P.3d 643, 658 (Haw. 2004) (vacating the
state water commission’s decision regarding allocation of water resources because the state failed to weigh
competing public and private water uses on a case-by-case basis in light of trust values); In re Water Use Permit
Applications, 9 P.3d 409, 452, 454 (Haw. 2000) (citing Mono Lake as instructive while positing that Hawaii’s public
trust doctrine may require more protection than California’s because of geographical difference, but nevertheless
recognizing a preference for accommodating both instream and offstream uses where feasible).
34
of Columbia River Fishermen’s Protective Union v. City of St. Helens
197
provides a helpful case
example. The court affirmed a lower court injunction preventing further pollution damage to
lower Columbia River salmon populations, deciding that commercial salmon fishermen had a
cause of action against industrial and municipal polluters.
198
Rejecting the assertion that the
fishermen suffered no special injury necessary to bring a nuisance suit,
199
the court explained
that the injury to the fishermen’s livelihoods was distinct from the injury suffered by the general
public.
200
Thus, eighty years ago, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that citizens may maintain
suits to prevent unreasonable damage to wildlife populations when the state does not meet its
duty to maintain wildlife populations sufficient for public uses.
201
This duty should include
providing a suitable habitat to support sustainable populations, and the courts should recognize
that the public, as beneficiary of the PTD, has standing to bring suit against public and private
entities when resource uses threaten to interfere with public rights.
The PTD provides a useful framework to unify public rights to navigate and to use water
and wildlife. In 1959, the AG acknowledged that public water and wildlife use rights were
intertwined.
202
Considering whether the Oregon National Guard could lease land with exclusive
waterfowl shooting privileges on Slusher Lake,
203
the AG explained that regardless of bed
ownership, both sovereign ownership of wildlife and the public’s navigation easement guarantee
public rights to fish and hunt on all navigable waters in Oregon.
204
The AG acknowledged “a
conflict on whether the public has a right to hunt where the bed of a lake is privately owned,” but
197
87 P.2d 195 (Or. 1939).
198
See id. at 198.
199
Id. at 199 (noting that the fishermen could seek an injunction as an equitable remedy, but had no remedy at law).
200
Id. at 196–97 (recognizing plaintiff’s standing based on injury to their livelihood because, in addition to
depleting fish populations, “the pollution of said waters . . . rott[ed] and destroy[ed] their nets and lines . . . in the
sum of $3,000”).
201
See supra notes 197200 and accompanying text.
202
THORNTON, supra note 43, at 31112.
203
Id. at 311.
204
Id. at 312.
35
after reviewing Guilliams and Luscher,
205
explained that “the right of hunting and fishing on
water navigable-in-fact exists regardless of title to the bed as an incident of navigation.”
206
Consequently, the AG opined that the Oregon National Guard could not grant exclusive hunting
rights on the lake because hunting and fishing rights are free and common to all citizens in the
state.
207
This reasoning suggests that Oregon courts should recognize that wildlife resources are
protected under the PTD because of paramount public hunting, fishing, and recreational rights,
including birdwatching and wildlife viewing.
208
In 2008, California expressly recognized that wildlife is part of the PTD. In Center for
Biological Diversity, Inc. v. FPL Group,
209
the court of appeals ruled that “[t]he public trust
doctrine applies to wildlife, including raptors and other birds.”
210
The court noted that “[b]ecause
wildlife are generally transient and not easily confined, through the centuries and across societies
they have been held to belong to no one and therefore to belong to everyone in common.”
211
Citing United States Supreme Court authority, the court concluded the state must exercise its
authority over the common property in game animals as a trust, “represent[ing the] people . . . in
their united sovereignty.”
212
As a result, even though wildlife is regulated under the state’s
“police power and explicit statutory authorization . . . the public retains the right to bring actions
205
Id. at 312; see supra notes 99113 and accompanying text (discussing the Guilliams decision’s recognition of
public navigation rights independent of bed ownership); supra notes 11420 and accompanying text (discussing the
Luscher decision’s recognition of the same distinction).
206
THORTON, supra note 43, at 312.
207
Id. (explaining that doing so would transform public rights into a monopoly).
208
See, e.g., Doty v. Coos County, 59 P.3d 50, 51 n.1 (Or. Ct. App. 2002) (recognizing that a birdwatcher had
standing to challenge an order of the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals), aff’d and clarified on reh’g, 64 P.3d
1150 (Or. 2003); WaterWatch of Or., Inc. v. Water Res. Comm’n, 112 P.3d 443, 44445 (Or. Ct. App. 2005)
(recognizing that a flyfisherman had standing to challenge rules for groundwater appropriations that could adversely
affect his use of a river).
209
83 Cal. Rptr. 3d 588 (Cal. Ct. App. 2008).
210
Id. at 595 (rejecting a contention that the public trust doctrine applies only to tidelands and navigable waters,
and has no application to wildlife”).
211
Id. at 597 (quoting James L. Huffman, Speaking of Inconvenient TruthsA History of the Public Trust Doctrine,
18 DUKE ENVTL. L. & POLY F. 1, 86 (2007)).
212
Id. at 598 (citing, for example, Geer v. Connecticut, 161 U.S. 519, 529 (1896)).
36
to enforce the trust when the public agencies fail to discharge their duties.”
213
Thus, the public
had a right to sue state and local agencies for permitting more than 5,000 wind generators in
Altamont Pass, whose operations unnecessarily killed tens of thousands of birds, including
thousands of raptors.
214
Similarly, Oregon has long recognized that the state owns wildlife in a sovereign
capacity, as trustee for the public.
215
By protecting public rights, including hunting and fishing
on all navigable-for-public-use waters, the Oregon Supreme Court and AG have recognized that
wildlife and waters are publicly owned trust resources that must be managed for the benefit of
the public, not private interests.
216
A number of statutes, cases, and AG opinions suggest that
Oregon courts should expressly recognize the state’s trustee duty to preserve wildlife resources
for the benefit of present and future generations.
217
C. Beaches and Uplands
Oregon’s PTD extends to uplands when reasonably necessary to enable public
navigation, or to maintain public water and wildlife trust resources.
218
In the Oregon Supreme
Court’s first decision on public navigation rights in 1869, Weise v. Smith, the court recognized
213
Ctr. for Biological Diversity, 83 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 601 (explaining that “[m]any of the cases establishing the public
trust doctrine in this country and in California have been brought by private parties to prevent agencies of
government from abandoning or neglecting the rights of the public with respect to resources subject to the public
trust”) (citing Ill. Cent. R.R. Co. v. Illinois, 146 U.S. 387 (1892); City of Berkeley v. Super. Ct. of Alameda Cnty.,
606 P.2d 362 (Cal. 1980)).
214
Ctr. for Biological Diversity, 83 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 592, 601. However, the court held that the public trust claim
must be brought against public agencies as trustees of the wildlife, not the wind generators, id. at 60206, a result
seemingly inconsistent with the California Supreme Court’s decision in Marks v. Whitney, 491 P.2d 374, 378, 381
(Cal. 1971) (en banc), which recognized the standing of a landowner to sue a neighbor who attempted to fill PTD-
protected tidelands. Id.
215
See supra notes 17894 and accompanying text.
216
See supra notes 197207 and accompanying text; Part III.A (describing public rights of navigation, fishing,
commerce, and recreation in all Oregon waters regardless of underlying bed ownership).
217
See generally Dunning, supra note 6, § 30.04 (explaining that when the PTD stems from public water and
wildlife ownership, it protects these resources but “obviates the need for a finding as to bed ownership”); Mary
Christina Wood, Advancing the Sovereign Trust of Government to Safeguard the Environment for Present and
Future Generations (Part II): Instilling a Fiduciary Obligation in Governance, 39 ENVTL. L. 91, 9598 (2009)
(describing the state’s fiduciary duty to maintain public trust resources, including wildlife).
218
See infra notes 21920 and accompanying text (explaining how the Weise decision recognized that the PTD
applies to uplands when necessary to enable navigation); see supra note 164 and accompanying text (describing how
the Scenic Waterways Act applies to adjacent lands that affect scenic waters).
37
public use rights in uplands when necessary for log floats.
219
The court explained that loggers
could construct temporary booms on private property when necessary to enable navigation for
commercial purposes.
220
A century later, in the 1969 case of State ex rel. Thornton v. Hay,
221
the Oregon Supreme
Court endorsed custom as a basis for recognizing public rights to recreate on Oregon ocean
beaches.
222
The Hay court explained that public had customary rights to use ocean beaches as
highways of commerce, rights which existed prior to statehood and which were burdened private
titles due to the public’s long, uninterrupted, peaceable, and lawful use of ocean beaches.
223
But
the public’s right to use ocean beaches is also a public trust right and ought to be understood as
part of the state’s PTD.
224
Although the majority in Hay adopted the doctrine of custom,
225
the PTD is a
complementary, if not better justification for the public’s easement.
226
In his concurring opinion,
219
Weise, 3 Or. 445, 450 (1869) (explaining that the public had limited rights to use uplands when necessary to
enable navigation, including the right to construct booms on private property for a reasonable time to enable log
floats). As explained above, the public navigation easement originated in the public highways language in the
Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which was incorporated in the Oregon Statehood Act. See supra Part III.A
(discussing public navigation rights).
220
Weise, 3 Or. at 451–52 (“If there had been no necessity for fastening the boom to the plaintiff’s land, the act of
fastening it would have been a trespass, for which the plaintiff ought to recover nominal damages at least; but if the
act was necessary in order to enable the plaintiff to exercise a right of navigation, no cause of action would lie for a
bare intrusion which worked no appreciable damages.”). See Ben Depoorter, Fair Trespass, 111 COLUM. L. REV.
1090, 1092 (2011) (noting that courts have excused trespasses supported by significant public interests by both
assessing nominal damages and creating “context-specific exceptions”).
221
462 P.2d 671 (Or. 1969).
222
Id. at 676. See generally STRATON, supra note 30 (describing how the Beach Bill established a public right to
access the beaches for recreation); Or. Pub. Broad., supra note 30 (listing Thornton v. Hay on its timeline of public
beach access in Oregon and dubbing the case a “landmark” decision). In the 1967 Beach Bill, the Oregon
Legislature declared that the public had the right to use ocean beaches in the state. Id.
223
Hay, 462 P.2d at 677 (explaining that “[t]he custom of the people of Oregon to use the dry-sand area of the
beaches for public recreational purposes meets every one of Blackstone’s requisites”).
224
In New Jersey, the PTD protects the public’s right to use beaches. See Matthews v. Bay Head Improvement
Ass’n, 471 A.2d 355, 36364 (N.J. 1984) (recognizing that public rights to use the dry sand area of private beaches
takes two forms: access and use rights. “First, the public may have a right to cross privately owned dry sand beaches
in order to gain access to the foreshore. Second, this interest may be of the sort enjoyed by the public . . , namely,
the right to sunbathe and generally enjoy recreational activities.”); Raleigh Ave. Beach Ass’n v. Atlantis Beach
Club, Inc., 879 A.2d 112, 113 (N.J. 2005) (applying the PTD to privately owned beaches and noting “the public trust
doctrine requires the Atlantis [upland sand beach] property to be open to the general public”).
225
Hay, 462 P.2d at 676. The Oregon Supreme Court affirmed Attorney General Robert Thornton’s order directing
a motel owner to remove a fence from his beachfront property, ratifying the beach bill’s recognition of the public
right to recreate on ocean beaches based on the doctrine of custom. Id. at 673 (explaining that public recreational use
38
Justice Denecke examined the state’s long recognition of the PTD, including the Guilliams,
Luscher, and other decisions, and suggested that sovereign ownership, or the jus publicum, was a
more suitable vehicle for protecting public recreational beach use.
227
He explained that “[t]hese
rights of the public in tidelands and in the beds of navigable streams have been called ‘jus
publicum’ and we have consistently and recently reaffirmed their existence.”
228
Analogizing
beaches to waters, and relying on Guilliams and Luscher, Justice Denecke recognized that the
public’s right to use extends to dry sand beaches.
229
Actually, the Oregon Supreme Court’s first
decision on the scope of public navigation rights in its 1869 Weise decision anticipated Hay by
allowing public use of private uplands when necessary to enable public navigation.
230
As
explained above,
231
the Weise court recognized public rights to use private property when
of beaches was an established custom since not only “the beginning of the state’s political history” but also “the time
of earliest settlement”).
226
See Carl D. Etling, Who Owns the Wildlife?, 3 ENVTL. L. 23, 2426 (1973) (explaining the history of state
constructive ownership of wildlife in the United States and Oregon); DePoorter, supra note 220, at 109294, 1110
(explaining that exceptions to trespass theories should be refined from a patchwork of doctrines into a unified theory
of fair trespass, and that, particularly in the context of beaches, custom, and the “public trust doctrine reserves public
access rights to private property” (citing State ex rel. Thornton v. Hay, 462 P.2d 671, 678 (Or. 1969); City of
Daytona Beach v. Tona-Rama, Inc., 294 So. 2d 73, 78 (Fla. 1974); Stevens v. City of Cannon Beach, 854 P.2d 449,
456 (Or. 1993) (en banc))); see also Matcha v. Mattox, 711 S.W.2d 95, 97, 101 (Tex. Ct. App. 1986) (affirming the
district court’s finding of a public easement to the beach through, inter alia, the doctrine of custom).
227
Hay, 462 P.2d at 679 (Denecke, J., concurring) (citing Luscher v. Reynolds, 56 P.2d 1158 (Or. 1936); Corvallis
Sand & Gravel Co. v. State Land Bd., 439 P.2d 575 (Or. 1968) (en banc)). In citing Luscher, Justice Denecke’s
concurrence recognized that the public trust doctrine burdened all navigable-for-public-use waters, not merely
navigable-for-title waters. See supra Part III (discussing Oregon Supreme Court cases recognizing public rights to
fish, recreate, navigate, and engage in commerce including log floats on all navigable-in-fact waters irrespective of
bed ownership).
228
Hay, 462 P.2d at 679 (Denecke, J., concurring) (citing Corvallis Sand & Gravel, 439 P.2d 575 (Or. 1968); Smith
Tug & Barge Co. v. ColumbiaPac. Towing Corp., 443 P.2d 205 (Or. 1968) (en banc)).
229
Id.; see also Erin Pitts, Comment, The Public Trust Doctrine: A Tool for Ensuring Continued Public Use of
Oregon Beaches, 22 ENVTL. L. 731, 733 (1992) (maintaining that Justice Denecke’s concurrence gives Oregon
courts the option of recognizing the PTD as an independent basis for protecting public rights to recreate on
Oregon beaches).
230
See supra notes 6974 and accompanying text; Stevens, 854 P.2d at 453, 45657 (rejecting assertions that the
state’s denial of a permit to construct a seawall was an unconstitutional taking, and commenting that [p]laintiffs
[did] not ask this court to overrule Thornton, and they [did] not argue that any portion of the Beach Bill is
unconstitutional”).
231
See supra notes 21920, Part III.A (discussing the Weise opinion).
39
necessary for log floats.
232
Public access to ocean beaches is a similar ancillary right, necessary
to allow for effective public use of publicly owned tidelands.
233
Historically, public navigation occurred on both the shoreline and the waters in tidal
areas, because beaches provided a convenient travel route along the state’s rugged coast.
234
In its
1885 decision of Wilson v. Welch,
235
the Oregon Supreme Court reiterated that public rights
could burden private property rights in tidelands despite state sales of the jus privatum in such
lands, relying on the three classes of rights in shorelands: “[f]irst, the jus privatum, or right of
property or franchise; second, the jus publicum, or public right of passage and navigation; and,
third, the jus regium, or governmental right.”
236
After Governor Oswald West declared Oregon
tidelands to be public highways in 1913,
237
the legislature repealed statutes authorizing sales of
tidelands and upheld the public easement for tideland use.
238
Thus, long before Oregon voters
flooded the legislature with letters in support of the 1967 beach bill,
239
Oregon already had well-
established law protecting public rights to use tidelands as highways of commerce. In light of the
Weise court’s century-old recognition of ancillary public rights to use uplands when necessary to
232
Weise, 3 Or. 445, 451 (1869) (“[I]f the act [of constructing temporary log booms] was necessary in order to
enable the plaintiff to exercise a right of navigation, no cause of action would lie for a bare intrusion which worked
no appreciable damages.”).
233
See infra notes 23438 and accompanying text.
234
See generally Or. Pub. Broad., supra note 30 (describing the fight to preserve public access to beaches, including
the right to use them “as a public highway”); Or. Pub. Broad., Oregon Experience: The Beach Bill, Oregon Beaches
Gallery, http://www.opb.org/programs/oregonexperiencearchive/beachbill/gallery.php (last visited Oct. 31, 2011)
(providing photos of Oregonians enjoying the wet and dry sand areas and stating that “[i]n 1913 Governor Oswald
West declared the tidelands a public highway forever protecting them from private development”).
235
7 P. 341 (Or. 1885).
236
Id. at 345.
237
See Or. State Archives, supra note 30 (describing how beaches were protected for public use during West’s
governorship, which followed his tenure as State Land Agent, during which he recovered 900,000 acres of school
trust lands fraudulently acquired by speculators).
238
See Act of Feb 13, 1913, ch. 47, 1913 Or. Laws 80, 80 (The shore of the Pacific Ocean, between ordinary high
tide and extreme low tide, and from the Columbia River on the north to the Oregon and California State line on the
south . . . is hereby declared a public highway and shall forever remain open as such to the public.”); Or. State
Archives, supra note 30. See generally Or. Pub. Broad., supra note 30 (explaining that the fight over public access
“erupted into the hottest issue of the 1967 legislative session and created the greatest public response to any issue in
Oregon’s legislative history”).
239
See Or. Pub. Broad., supra note 30; STRATON, supra note 30, at 2629.
40
enable public navigation,
240
the Hay decision was hardly the unexpected sea change that Justice
Scalia once suggested.
241
Modern Oregon courts should recognize that both custom and the PTD support public
rights to use beaches and tidelands.
242
Based on a century of case law from 1869 to 1969, the
Oregon PTD protects public rights to use uplands when necessary to enable water use for public
purposes recognized under the public navigation easement and protected by the PTD, including
boating, fishing, swimming, and other recreational activities.
243
240
See supra notes 73, 21920, 232 and accompanying text.
241
See Stevens v. City of Cannon Beach, 510 U.S. 1207, 121112 (1994) (Scalia, J., dissenting) (implying that
Oregon denied private property rights protected under the Takings Clause “by invoking nonexistent rules of state
substantive law” and referring to the doctrine of custom as “a landgrab”). Justice Scalia also seemed to think that the
Oregon Supreme Court inconsistently applied the doctrine of custom laid down in Hay and reiterated in Stevens. Id.
at 1211 n.3. He pointed out that in McDonald v. Halvorson, 780 P.2d 714, 724 (Or. 1989) (en banc), the Oregon
Supreme Court refused to apply public customary rights to a beach that was not adjacent to the ocean and which the
public had not historically used. Stevens, 510 U.S. at 1212 n.5. But if public beach rights are ancillary rights that
spring from the public’s ownership of adjacent tidelands, the result in Halvorsen is explainable by the lack of
adjacent tidelands as well as the lack of customary use.
242
See supra notes 22233 and accompanying text; infra notes 24344 and accompanying text.
243
Guilliams, 175 P. 437, 442 (Or. 1918) (quoting Lamprey v. State, 52 N.W. 1139 (Wis. 1893)) (ruling that the
PTD encompasses “sailing, rowing, fishing, fowling, bathing, skating, taking water for domestic, agricultural, and
even city purposes, cutting ice, and other public purposes which cannot now be enumerated or even anticipated”);
see also Wood, supra note 182, at 612 (arguing that the state has an affirmative duty to remedy damages to trust
resources for the public benefit). Oregon courts have not addressed whether the public has a right to cross uplands
out of necessity to access public trust water resources. However, as in other states, the public likely has the right to
access navigable-for-public-use waters from public bridges or roads, even those not maintained by the state. See
generally Webb v. Clodfelter, 132 P.3d 50, 5152, 54 (Or. Ct. App. 2006) (upholding a hunters’ rights to use a road
of unknown origin, and explaining that “the use of an existing road of unknown origin over the servient owner’s
property in a way that does not interfere with the servient owner’s use will defeat a presumption of adverseness”);
Trewin v. Hunter, 531 P.2d 899, 901 (Or. 1975) (en banc) (stating that when there is no evidence of who constructed
a commonly used road, “it should be presumed that the servient owner constructed it for his own use,” thereby
establishing that a neighbor’s longstanding use is permissive, not adverse); Boyer v. Abston, 544 P.2d 1031, 1031
32 (Or. 1976) (en banc) (after explaining that a landowner’s predecessor had always allowed miners, hunters, and
neighbors to use a road, the court held that the claimant failed to establish adverse possession of an easement
because his use of the road was permissive).
The Oregon legislature established a policy in favor of public rights to access and use uplands without
unreasonably burdening landowners in the 1995 Public Use of Lands Act. That statute encouraged landowners to
open land for recreational use by providing immunity from suits “in contract or tort for any personal injury, death or
property damage that arises out of the use of the land for recreational purposes, gardening, woodcutting or the
harvest of special forest products.” OR. REV. STAT. § 105.682(1) (2011). Recreational uses included in the statute are
“outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, swimming, boating, camping, picnicking, hiking, nature study, outdoor
educational activities, waterskiing, winter sports, viewing or enjoying historical, archaeological, scenic or scientific
sites or volunteering for any public purpose project.” Id. § 105.672(5). A landowner receives immunity only if she
does not charge a fee for the use of her land, although there are some exceptions for parking fees and other costs
associated with providing public access. Id. § 105.688. When faced with difficult situations questioning the balance
between public and private rights, the courts should affirm paramount public navigation rights without imposing
unreasonable burdens on landowners.
41
The Oregon PTD may also include rights to cross uplands or portage when reasonably
necessary to access public water resources.
244
In Weise, the 1869 Oregon Supreme Court
recognized that the public had privileged, non-trespassory rights to use uplands when necessary
to enable useful public navigation.
245
The court explained that, under the jus publicum, the public
navigation easement includes the right “founded upon necessity . . . to meddle with the bank,
[but] it is only an incidental [right].”
246
A century later, in Hay and Stevens v. City of Cannon
Beach,
247
the modern Oregon Supreme Court recognized public rights to use all Oregon beaches
under the doctrine of custom, a proposition supported by the Weise precedent.
248
Based on these
cases and the legislature’s consistent policy of favoring public access to recreational waters,
249
the Oregon PTD should include ancillary public rights to reasonable use of uplands, when
necessary to access waters.
250
244
See supra notes 73, 21920, 232 and accompanying text. In Herrin v. Sutherland, the 1925 Montana Supreme
Court explained that a member of the public may have the right to cross private land to access public property out of
necessity. 241 P. 328, 333 (Mont. 1925). In Curran, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a statute allowing the
public to portage around barriers on navigable waters in a reasonable fashion as a pre-existing right under the state
PTD, probably based on the doctrine of necessity. 682 P.2d 163, 172 (Mont. 1984); MONT. CODE ANN. § 23-2-
311(1) (2011) (“A member of the public making recreational use of surface waters may, above the ordinary high-
water mark, portage around barriers in the least intrusive manner possible, avoiding damage to the landowner’s land
and violation of the landowner’s rights.”). The court severed a provision requiring landowners to construct public
portage routes as an unconstitutional taking of private property. See Galt v. State Dep’t of Fish, Wildlife & Parks,
731 P.2d 912, 914, 916 (Mont. 1987) (severing subsection (3)(e) from MONT. CODE ANN. § 23-2-311 because
“although the recreational user has a right to portage around obstructions . . . there can be no responsibility on behalf
of the landowner to pay for such portage right”).
245
Weise, 3 Or. 445, 451 (Or. 1869); see Pitts, supra note 229, at 733 (suggesting that based on Justice Denecke’s
comment in Hay, the court could recognize the PTD as an independent basis for protecting public rights to recreate
on Oregon beaches).
246
Weise, 3 Or. at 451; see supra notes 21920, 232 and accompanying text. In Lebanon Lumber Co. v. Leonard,
136 P. 891 (Or. 1913), the Oregon Supreme Court, without referencing the Weise decision, stated that public
navigation rights did not include a use right on private lands adjacent to a stream unless necessary “to reclaim
stranded property which has washed ashore without the fault of the owner.” Id. at 893. The court’s mention of
necessity justifying noninjurious trespass makes it possible to reconcile this result with Weise. At any rate, the
statement in Lebanon Lumber is dicta, as the court concluded that McDowell Creek was not navigable under the
log-float test three years before the Guilliams decision expanded the definition of navigable waters to include all
Oregon waters capable of recreational boating. See supra notes 10309 and accompanying text.
247
854 P.2d 449 (Or. 1993) (en banc).
248
See supra notes 22233 and accompanying text.
249
See supra notes 30, 222, 238 and accompanying text; supra note 243.
250
See supra notes 73, 21920, 232 and accompanying text.
42
V. CONCLUSION
The Oregon PTD is more robust than generally recognized to date.
251
The doctrine is a
background principle of state property law, reflecting the pre-statehood principle that as
sovereign trustee, the state must manage public water and wildlife resources for the benefit of
present and future generations.
252
The PTD is actually shorthand for a collection of Oregon
doctrines protecting public usufructuary rights in natural resources, including public rights to
navigate on public highways like beaches and waterways, public ownership of water, and
sovereign ownership of wildlife.
253
The PTD unifies common law doctrines that recognize public
rights to use trust resources, including customary rights to use Oregon beaches recognized in
Hay.
254
Although the origins of Oregon’s PTD lie in longstanding public ownership of waters
and wildlife, and the public highways language from the Northwest Ordinance in the Statehood
Act,
255
the PTD is quite vibrant, reflected in both historic and modern statutes, as well as modern
case law concerning state ownership of wildlife and public rights to use waters and ocean
beaches.
256
The 2005 AG opinion recognized the long history of the Oregon PTD, but
mischaracterized it as a doctrine solely related to state land ownership, when in fact public
navigation rights are usufructuary in nature, arising out of public ownership of water and
251
As in the 2005 AG Opinion, some scholars have examined the scope of the state PTD concerning ownership of
submerged lands without discussing public rights stemming from public ownership of water, seeming to assume the
basis of PTD is ownership of submerged land. See, e.g., Michael B. Huston & Beverly Jane Ard, The Public Trust
Doctrine in Oregon, 19 ENVTL. L. 623, 625, 629 (1989); Scott B. Yates, A Case for the Extension of the Public Trust
Doctrine in Oregon, 27 ENVTL. L. 663, 667 (1997). Another commentator assumed that the PTD has protected
public recreational uses only since 1978. See Danielle Spiegel, Can the Public Trust Doctrine Save Western
Groundwater?, 18 N.Y.U. ENVTL. L. J. 412, 44243 (2010). But see supra notes 5960, 93120 (discussing the
Oregon Supreme Court’s recognition of public recreational rights within the scope of the navigation easement in the
1918 Guilliams decision and the 1936 Luscher decision).
252
See Sax, supra note 5, at 482 (commenting that “it hardly seems sensible to ask for a freezing of any future
specific configuration of policy judgments, for that result would seriously hamper the government’s attempts to cope
with the problems caused by changes in the needs and desires of the citizenry”).
253
See supra notes 12832 and accompanying text; see also Wood, supra note 182, at 612 (describing state trust
obligations and the remedies available to the public when the state fails to fulfill its duties).
254
Hay, 62 P.2d 671, 67677 (Or. 1969) (describing how “the dry-sand area along the Pacific shore . . . has been
used by the public as public recreational land according to an unbroken custom running back in time as long as the
land has been inhabited”).
255
See, e.g., supra notes 30, 66, 84, 12425, 136, 185 and accompanying text.
256
See supra Parts III, IV.
43
wildlife, as well as the public navigation easement in waters and beaches.
257
This confusion
encouraged the AG to erect a separate “public use” doctrine that the opinion ought to have
recognized as part of the PTD, stemming from public navigation rights and public water
ownership.
258
The AG’s failure to recognize the proper scope of the PTD is no mere conceptual
difference between public proprietary ownership and public use rights: the interpretation was
grounded on a confusion of proprietary ownership with sovereign ownership.
259
In the recent
Simpson decision, the Oregon Court of Appeals accurately distinguished sovereign ownership
obligations from state proprietary rights, explaining that these sovereign duties have always
burdened proprietary rights.
260
The misguided proprietary ownership model of the PTD in the 2005 AG Opinion also
obscures the central role of the PTD concerning public ownership of water and wildlife and
public access to ocean beaches. As sovereign trustee, the state has owned water and wildlife in
trust for the public since statehood.
261
Sovereign ownership means that the state not only has
police power authority to protect and allocate these resources, but has a duty to preserve them for
present and future generationsas well as the ability to seek damages for private misuse.
262
Although both water and wildlife are the subject of considerable statutory attention,
263
judicial
257
See, e.g., supra notes 30, 66, 84, 12425, 136, 185 and accompanying text.
258
See supra notes 3849 and accompanying text.
259
See supra notes 39-45, 190, infra notes 26065 and accompanying text.
260
See Simpson, 255 P.3d 565, 571 (Or. Ct. App. 2011) (“The view that property rights in wild animals lie in the
sovereign was adopted in America, including by the Oregon Supreme Court.” (citing State v. Hume, 95 P. 808, 810
(Or. 1908))); see also State v. McGuire, 33 P. 666, 669 (Or. 1893) (affirming the state’s sovereign power to regulate
wildlife harvests); State v. Schuman, 58 P. 661, 663 (Or. 1899); State v. Fisher, 98 P. 713, 715 (Or. 1908); State v.
Pulos, 129 P. 128, 130 (Or. 1913) (upholding the defendant’s conviction for possessing a wild duck out of season
because the statute did not except ducks captured during open season, and explaining that “title to wild game is in
the state, and . . . the taking of them is not a right, but is a privilege, which may be restricted, prohibited, or
conditioned, as the lawmaking power may see fit”).
261
See supra notes 136, 14045 (water), 18291 (wildlife) and accompanying text.
262
See Blumm & Ritchie, supra note 178, at 708; Wood, supra note 182, at 612.
263
See, e.g., Act of Feb. 24, 1909, ch. 221, 1909 Or. Laws 370, 370 (codified as amended at OR. REV. STAT. §§
536–558 (2011)) (“All water within the State from all sources of water supply belong to the public.”); OR. REV.
STAT. § 537.110 (2011); OR. REV. STAT. § 498.002(1) (2011) (“Wildlife is the property of the state. No person shall
angle for, take, hunt, trap or possess, or assist another in angling for, taking, hunting, trapping or possessing any
wildlife in violation of the wildlife laws or of any rule promulgated pursuant thereto.”).
44
interpretation of how the state implements these statutes should reflect the fact that sovereign
ownership of trust resources preceded the statutes and exists independently of them.
264
Sovereign ownership and the public navigation easement also justify Oregon’s customary
rights approach to providing public rights to use all ocean beaches.
265
The Oregon Supreme
Court has declared that customary beach access rights is “background principles” of state law,
266
insulating the exercise of those rights from private claims landowners for constitutional
compensation,
267
because those rights have existed since at least statehood.
268
Indeed, so have
public rights to navigate and fish based on state ownership of water and wildlife.
269
Thus, no less
than customary public rights to access ocean beaches, public navigation, and wildlife harvest
rights are background principles of state property law. Linking public rights in water, wildlife,
and beaches under the PTD will help state courts resolve some outstanding issues, like whether
and to what extent private uplands may be subject to a public easement when necessary to enable
public access to trust waters.
The Oregon public trust doctrine has been underappreciated. The 2005 AG Opinion
mistakenly connected the PTD with bed land ownership, instead of grounding its origins in
public navigation rights and public water ownership. Recognizing its usufructuary nature would
264
See Simpson, 255 P.3d at 571 (“It is a generally recognized principle that migratory fish in the navigable waters
of a state, like game within its borders, are classed as animals ferae naturae, the title to which, so far as that claim is
capable of being asserted before possession is obtained, is held by the state, in its sovereign capacity in trust for all
its citizens.” (quoting State v. Hume, 95 P. 808, 810 (Or. 1908)); Ctr. for Biodiversity, Inc. v. FPL Grp., Inc., 83 Cal.
Rptr. 3d 588, 597 (Cal. Ct. App. 2008) (“The wild game within a state belongs to the people in their collective,
sovereign capacity. It is not the subject of private ownership, except in so far as the people may elect to make it so;
and they may, if they see fit, absolutely prohibit the taking of it, or any traffic or commerce in it, if deemed
necessary for its protection or preservation, or the public good.” (quoting Ex parte Maier, 37 P. 402, 404 (Cal.
1894)); see also supra notes 20914 and accompanying text (discussing Center for Biological Diversity).
265
See supra notes 21841 and accompanying text.
266
Stevens v. City of Cannon Beach, 854 P.2d 449, 456 (Or. 1993) (en banc), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1207 (1994)
(“Applying the Lucas analysis to this case, we conclude that the common-law doctrine of custom . . . ‘inhere[s] in
the title itself, in the restrictions that background principles of the State’s law of property and nuisance already
placed upon land ownership.’” (quoting Lucas v. S.C. Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003, 1029 (2003)).
267
Lucas, 505 U.S. at 1029 (explaining that the state can regulate property consistent with background principles of
nuisance and property law without owing constitutional compensation).
268
Hay, 462 P.2d 671, 673 (Or. 1969) (observing that public rights to use Oregon beaches have burdened sovereign
and private title since “the beginning of the state’s political history”).
269
See supra notes 136, 14043 (discussing public ownership of water), 18291 (discussing public ownership of
wildlife) and accompanying text.
45
correct the narrow interpretation given to the doctrine in the 2005 AG opinion. Understanding
the distinction between the sovereign ownership of the PTD and ordinary proprietary ownership
should allow courts and the AG to see that the PTD unifies public ownership of water and
wildlife and customary rights to ocean beaches. Unifying public trust and sovereign ownership
doctrines would make clear that the state holds natural resources like water, wildlife, and beaches
in trust for all its citizens, and that trust burdens the state with protective duties as well as
allocation authority. The PTD, a collection of constitutional, statutory, and common law
principles providing public use rights in waters, beaches, and wildlife since statehood in 1859,
offers Oregon an important vehicle for sustainably managing state-owned resources in the
twenty-first century.
... Oregon's ocean resources, including its MPA system, are managed by several state agencies for the public trust, a concept that recognizes that resources must be managed for the benefit of the general public while balancing needs across many users (Sax 1970). In Oregon, and elsewhere, the public trust doctrine has evolved to expand from traditional uses, such as managing state waters for navigation, commerce, or fisheries, to include consideration of recreation, aesthetics, and ecological values (Blumm and Doot 2012). Historically, Oregon's political culture has embraced the coast, and extended the public trust doctrine over an array of coastal resources, including, most notably, the 1967 Beach Bill, which passed following a large public outcry and expanded and assured public access protections for all of Oregon's coastal beaches (Marsh 2012: 281-283). ...
... As the public trust doctrine is extended by governments beyond the traditional triad of public trust ocean uses (i.e., fishing, navigation, and commerce), the doctrine has evolved to reflect contemporary concerns including, recreation, preservation of natural environments, open space and scenery, and maintaining natural resources for future generations, among others (Christie 2004). In Oregon, nearly a century and a half of legal opinions provide precedent for a flexible interpretation of the public trust that evolves with contemporary concerns to extend the doctrine beyond the traditional public uses (Blumm and Doot 2012). For several decades Oregon wildlife and fisheries managers and state governments have interpreted this flexibility to include habitat integrity and environmental quality as public trust doctrine resources based on the notion that the state's stewardship of water resources includes a responsibility for "conservation, maintenance, and enhancement of aquatic life, fish, wildlife, habitat, and 'any other ecological values' 3 " for present and future generations (Blumm at Doot 2012). ...
... In Oregon, nearly a century and a half of legal opinions provide precedent for a flexible interpretation of the public trust that evolves with contemporary concerns to extend the doctrine beyond the traditional public uses (Blumm and Doot 2012). For several decades Oregon wildlife and fisheries managers and state governments have interpreted this flexibility to include habitat integrity and environmental quality as public trust doctrine resources based on the notion that the state's stewardship of water resources includes a responsibility for "conservation, maintenance, and enhancement of aquatic life, fish, wildlife, habitat, and 'any other ecological values' 3 " for present and future generations (Blumm at Doot 2012). As Oregon and other states establish and investigate the impacts of new MPA designations on fisheries, coastal communities, and related sectors, managers need to understand what influences the general public's support for and opposition to these management tools. ...
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