The Public Trust Alliance defends natural resources via long-term commitments to larger projects as well as providing immediate assistance & information to community groups at various stages of their advocacy:

Central Coast – Monterey Peninsula.

We are developing and implementing infrastructure for an alternative, regional water supply to stop dewatering regional rivers & streams. We intervened in a State Water Board enforcement proceeding that resulted in a Cease & Desist order against Cal-American Water Company’s illegal diversions of the Carmel River. We now are asserting public trust obligations in the PUC proceeding as a basis for regional collaboration. This creative approach for a publicly owned desalination plant could become a model of how public infrastructure can be more rationally designed, constructed, and managed.

South Coast—San Diego.

Cruise Ship homeporting threatens a publicly accessible North Embarcadero. Urging shipping uses be developed in the existing marine terminal, we are defending public parks, set aside as mitigation for previous projects. The Public Trust Alliance continues to collaborate with local activists and planning and permitting agencies to defend public access and uses before the Coastal Commission and other agencies.

San Francisco Bay Area.

Previously we waged an environmental justice campaign with local Richmond activists and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water to preserve Breuner Marsh & surrounding shoreline and creeks in the Richmond area. We are collaborating with the North Richmond Shoreline Open Space Alliance as the Richmond General Plan is updated. We also protect continued public access and shoreline use and urging responsible adaptation to the predictably rising sea levels associated with climate change throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

North Coast Stream Flow Coalition.

The Public Trust Alliance is a founding supporter of the recently formed NCSFC. Our goal is nothing less than preventing private interests from dewatering North Coast waterways, which has been assisted by lax enforcement of public trust rights. AB 2121 requires the state to maintain instream flows from the northern Klamath River Basin southward to San Pablo and San Francisco Bays, including the counties of Humboldt, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma and Marin. In partnership with others, the Public Trust Alliance is creating a set of strategic plans to ensure the State Water Board begins living up to its trusteeship and AB 2121 obligations to address illegal damming, diversions, and impoundments.

Northern Cal-Shasta Lake.

We are working alongside the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water to protect sacred sites and improve water justice by supporting local communities most impacted by water policies as land uses change and water resources are developed…...[More]...We are also working on long term alternatives to the resource extraction model for rural communities by avoiding long term commitments to unsustainable water-bottling enterprises which violate public water rights.


All Public Trust Alliance advocacy is intended to encourage government agencies to take their trust responsibilities seriously and to follow established guidelines to protect long term public values. We also take steps to ensure that the general public has access to information about the public trust doctrine and the standard of conduct that should be expected from government trustees. In many ways, these reasonable expectations are the source of responsible resource management for the benefit of present and future generations. Unfortunately, it seems that as more and more decision making is delegated to groups of "stakeholders" assembled by public agencies, it has become less and less likely that individual new participants know very much about the public trust, its application, or even any sense of what they are entitled to expect from their government representatives.

Courts have historically applied the public trust doctrine to cases on the margin where public resources are being used for changing economic purposes. The usual complaint is that a proposed use or management plan doesn't preserve either the resource itself or it somehow interferes with historic public rights to access and use. We use the public trust doctrine as a guide for responsible public decision making. A workable knowledge of the public trust doctrine thus requires a historic understanding of its principles and values and a sense for how they can be, and very often are, extended in changing contexts. The Public trust is actually crucial adaptive tissue in our institutional bodies.

Our Track Record:

When the California Legislature required the State Water Resources Control Board to establish flow criteria to protect public trust resources in the San Francisco Bay Delta, the Public Trust Alliance filed a Notice of Intent to provide evidence and advocated for the application of risk-based standards.

As a member of the Planning Consortium for the California Environmental Health Tracking Program, the Public Trust Alliance advocated for State health officials to carry out their trustee responsibilities.

During the four-year process of updating the 2005 California State Water Plan, Michael Warburton was a member of the Public Advisory Committee supporting the Department of Water Resources Planning Team. The Alliance participated in forming a special public trust workgroup for the Committee. The updated Plan now recommends explicit consideration of public trust values and uses, in the strongest, clearest words since the Water Plan was inaugurated in the 1950s.

Warburton was featured in the 2005 Wild and Scenic Film Festival prize-winner "Dude, Where's My River?"

The Public Trust Alliance participated and organized water policy panels at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference sponsored by the University of Oregon Law School in 2003 and 2007.

We organized and presented the "People, Place and Water" panel at the 2008 Conference of the California Studies Association.

We provided key input for the design of the Environmental Justice Policy of the California State Lands Commission, a key public trustee in the State.