About Us:

The Public Trust Alliance uses a legal framework for natural resource stewardship called the Public Trust Doctrine to advocate for more responsible long term planning for public resources. Guided by a group of advisors, the Alliance team led by Executive Director Michael Warburton, conducts education, networking and advocacy efforts.


Key Staff

MICHAEL WARBURTON, Executive Director,

was the originator of the Public Trust Legal Project in 1995, advocating the application of the Public Trust Doctrine to the military base conversion process. From this base, he participated in the preparation of the 1997 Second Edition of the Coastal State's Organization treatise Putting the Public Trust Doctrine to Work: The Application of the Public Trust Doctrine to the Management of Lands, Waters and Living Resources of the Coastal States. He later established the Community Water Rights Project and served on the founding Steering Committee of the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water. He represented environmental justice perspectives on the Public Advisory Committee supporting the 2005 update of the California State Water Plan. Also in 2005, Michael wrote an article on fundamental uncertainty of water rights and the potential of the Public Trust Doctrine as an adaptive framework for responsible stewardship of water for a special edition of the McGeorge Law Review.

Michael earned his JD at Boalt Hall Law School, UC Berkeley, in 1992, and was a law clerk at the Berkeley Community Law Center and Legal Aid Society of Alameda County working on CEQA cases. He assisted with the State of Alaska’s litigation of the Exxon Valdez oil spill case in 1990. For several years, he was a member of the scientific staff at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria, where he worked with interdisciplinary scientists on solutions to environmental problems that cross national frontiers. In that capacity he was co-author of Uncertainty on a Himalayan Scale, republished in 2007 as part of the Himalayan Classics Series with a new Introduction by the former Minister of Water Resources of Nepal.


a nationally recognized environmental conservation journalist and poet, is the author of numerous books and articles on environmental issues, including a comprehensive, award-winning account of background of the “Mono Lake case,” which extended the application of the public trust doctrine to water diversions, perhaps the most innovative use of the doctrine in modern times. A veteran of the problem of making complex environmental issues understandable to lay audiences, John will write analyses of public trust issues.



is a licensed attorney and poet with two LLM degrees in Environmental and Natural Resource Law. She planned and implemented the legal strategy and briefing that resulted in a strong Cease and Desist Order against a well-represented water company that never seriously saw the possibility of such a ruling. She immediately moved forward into the next phase of litigation before the California Public Utilities Commission to formulate and implement the complex collaboration necessary to support a multi hundred million dollar regional water project in Monterey County.

Advisors include:

Gray Brechin, author and Director of the California New Deal Project; Ignacio Chapela, biologist and defender of public rights impacted by genetic engineering; Steve Kassower, water resources economist and facilitator of public collaboration on water infrastructure.