Following decades of neglecting its public trust duties, Washington now accepts the public trust doctrine as a permanent fixture in its law. In Orion Corp. v. State, the Washington Supreme Court reaffirmed the state's sovereign interest as the public's trustee in its tidelands, marshes, and shorelands. The court declared that private use of protected trust lands must conform to the public's interest in navigation, fishing, and recreation, and must not be harmful to the land's dependent wildlife. The court, however, declined to define the public trust's reach, stating only that it is coextensive with the public need. This standard suggests a willingness to further extend the public trust beyond its water-based context. Such an extension could encounter constitutional obstacles.
Steven W. Turnbull,
The Public Trust Doctrine: Accommodating the Public Need Within Constitutional Bounds—Orion Corp. v. State, 109 Wash. 2d 621, 747 P.2d 1062 (1987), cert. denied, 108 S. Ct. 1996 (1988),
63 Wash. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol63/iss4/27