Washington Law Review


Ivan M. Stoner


Under the public trust doctrine, a state must hold certain types of natural resources, most particularly navigable waters and shorelands, in trust for the benefit of the public. For that reason, courts closely scrutinize state actions impacting these public trust resources. In Caminiti v. Boyle, the Washington State Supreme Court developed a test that addresses situations where the State transfers control of public trust resources to private parties. But no firm rule guides Washington courts where a state action impacts the public trust without an alienation. This Comment examines the review Washington courts have applied in such situations, and concludes that while certain core principles are extractable—especially the principle that Washington courts’ role under the public trust doctrine does not end with enforcing the non-alienation rule established in Caminiti—Washington public trust law in this area remains vague. This Comment argues that reference to Wisconsin’s well-developed doctrine would clarify and improve Washington’s public trust doctrine, and proposes an analytical framework inspired by that created in Wisconsin’s courts.

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