Assemblyman Mounting Major Attack on Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine

Assemblyman Mounting Major Attack on Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine

Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine states that the waters of Wisconsin shall remain forever free, or in trust, to the people. This doctrine has stood the test of time and has been invoked to protect the people’s right to use and protect waterways in several very important cases. Now, Representative Scott Gunderson of Union Grove (District 83) is proposing legislation that would redefine which waters are considered public waters. The current definition states that a waterway is considered navigable if it can ever float a vessel. Gunderson’s proposal would limit the definition of navigability to waters that can float a canoe with a person in it for at least 6 months of the current calendar year!

This proposed definition would remove legal protection from many of our seasonal streams. It would also change the way that forestry Best Management Practices are applied, since several practices, such as construction of erosion-preventing river crossings, apply only to navigable waters. As of August 22nd, Representative Gunderson has not found a co-sponsor for this bill. Wisconsin Wetlands Association will continue to monitor progress of this attempt to limit the public’s right to protect its waters. For more information please contact Derek Strohl at or (608) 250-9971.”



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.