Rights of Nature


The Boulder Waterkeeper position is that Boulder Creek should receive legal standing and protection under a Rights of Nature philosophy.


The Public Trust Doctrine is an ancient concept with roots in Roman and English law.  The fundamental premise is that natural resources of significant common value are preserved for public use and that the government must assume a trustee responsibility to protect those resources for the public’s use.

In 1970 Joseph Sax published a seminal article titled The Public Trust Doctrine in Natural Resource Law: Effective Judicial Intervention in the University of Michigan Law Review that reestablished the concept of public responsibility for the management and preservation of natural resources.  This concept of public responsibility has influenced and been integrated into environmnetal law in many states including Michigan, California, Hawaii, New York, and Louisiana.

In a world where foundational Federal environmental laws based on the Constitution’s Commerce Clause including the Clean Air Act of 1970, National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, Clean Water Act of 1973  and the Endangered Species Act of 1973  are under assault there is a clear and present need for new and innovative thinking and action by local municipalities, states and environmental advocates to build consensus, commitment and a new foundation for environmental protections.

In 2012 two Colorado ballot initiatives were proposed (CO 2012 Ballot Initiative 3, CO 2012 Ballot Initiative 45), but ultimately did not appear on the ballot.


Begin the process to launch a ballot initiative to amend the Colorado constitution to acknowledge the concept and establish a framework for using the Public Trust Doctrine to address Colorado’s watershed issues.

With a focus on simplicity, clarity and balance the wording for a potential ballot initiative could be:

Towns, Cities, Counties and the State may appoint a trustee under the Public Trust Doctrine to represent the best interests of the watershed and the public when they deem a watershed in their jurisdiction to be facing significant economic, environmental or social equity risks and an obligation to appoint that trustee when a majority of the residents in the municipality consider it necessary.


Volunteer to help define the strategy or lead tactical efforts by reaching out to boulderwaterkeeper@gmail.com