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Fl66 Public Trust Formatted

Fl66 Public Trust Formatted

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Published by Bob Wattendorf
Fish Busters' Bulletin about the Public Trust Doctrine and North American Model of Wildlife Conservaton (Jun. 2011).
Fish Busters' Bulletin about the Public Trust Doctrine and North American Model of Wildlife Conservaton (Jun. 2011).

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Published by: Bob Wattendorf on Jun 30, 2011
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06/30/2011

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Florida Fish Busters’ BulletinJune 2011
FWC carries on the Public Trust--Doctrine
By Bob Wattendorf Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation CommissionFor my 32 years with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission(FWC), I have been one of those folks dealing with the stigma of “I’m from thegovernment, and I’m here to help you.”Fortunately, the FWC has an outstandingpublic reputation, and most people who care aboutnature and are outdoors enjoying our resourcesunderstand that we really are here to provide aservice. FWC employees, whether biologists,conservation officers or those holding a myriad of specialized jobs, are ultimately here to see that wemanage fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people.Long ago, resource users and all those who benefit by having healthy fish andwildlife and beautiful natural areas to appreciate, conveyed on governments thetask of protecting and sustaining nature. In previous “Fish Buster’s Bulletins” andour “Florida Freshwater Fishing Regulations Summary” (MyFWC.com), we havediscussed how the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation helps to fund
Fish stocking is just one of the moreeasily recognized ways by which FWC helps anglers and preserves the publictrust.
 
and regulate fish and wildlife harvest and use to ensure safe and sustainable publicrecreational opportunities. That model incorporates the “Public Trust Doctrine,” soperhaps it is time to explain its history and relevance.The Public Trust Doctrine is part of common law, and each state customizes itto establish public rights in navigable waters and along shores. This is becausepeople used these common areas for food, travel and commerce since timeimmemorial. Many historians attribute the origins to Roman laws passed around529 A.D. that stated, “By the law of nature these things are common to all mankind – the air, running water, the sea, and consequently the shores of the sea. No one,therefore, is forbidden to approach the seashore, provided that he respectshabitations, monuments, and the buildings, which are not, like the sea, subject onlyto the law of nations.” Roman property systems specified not only private propertybut also common property (
res communis
) and classified wildlife under the law of things owned by no one (
res nullius
).By high school, everyone should have heard of the
Magna Carta,
which
 
in 1215established that although the Crown (British royalty) continued to own property,commoners had the right to use tidal areas for traditional uses. Although the Crownwas a trustee of these lands, it could not provide exclusive rights to submergedlands.The American judicial system incorporated these common-law practices earlyin the nation’s history. In 1842, Chief Justice Roger Taney ruled in Martin vs.Wadell that “shores, and rivers, and bays, and arms of the sea, and the lands under
 
them (were held) as a public trust for the benefit of the whole community, to befreely used by all for navigation and fishery.”The Public Trust Doctrine has continued withthree solid core principles. First, that fish and wildlifeare public resources. Second, they are managed for thecommon good. Third, trained professionals hold them incustodianship and serve as trustees who areaccountable to the public.In Florida, the state constitution sets out thePublic Trust Doctrine in Article X, section 11. Thisconstitutional provision codifies existing common law,ensuring that title to navigable lakes and streams isheld by the state in trust for use by the people. As applied in Florida, the doctrineprotects water bodies that were navigable at the time of statehood in 1845. In 1909,the Florida Supreme Court interpreted this to mean “navigable for useful purposescommon to the public in the locality where the waterbody is located.”The term “navigable for useful purposes” must be understoodin context of the transportation system that actually existed atthe time of statehood. In 1845, the only railroad in Florida wasbetween Tallahassee and St. Marks. It used wooden rails withcarts pulled by mules. As a result, lakes and streams were by farthe most reliable public highways for moving goods and people.Consequently, the Florida congress recognized the status of these
In 1845, the map of Florida looked muchdifferent, but watersused for commercethen are still publicwaters. Data collected by scientists troughelectrofishing and tagging studieshelps ensure quality, sustainable fishing opportunities.

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