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Gunderson v. State: The Indiana Supreme Court Strengthens the Public Trust Doctrine’s Potential for Conservation in the Great Lakes

May 2018

Citation: 48 ELR 10394

Issue: 5

Author: Jeffrey B. Hyman

The Indiana Supreme Court recently delivered a landmark public trust decision, Gunderson v. State, ruling that the state acquired and still owns Indiana’s bed of Lake Michigan below the ordinary high water mark, including exposed shores, and that it holds that bed in an inalienable trust for public uses. This is a unique decision for the Great Lakes region. This Article examines the legal background for the case, the conflicts and contradictory rulings that emerged as it travelled upward through the court system, and the ultimate resolution by Indiana’s high court. The Article also places the decision in the larger context of environmental conservation and public trust advocacy.

Jeffrey B. Hyman is Staff Attorney at the Conservation Law Center in Bloomington, Indiana, and Adjunct Professor of Law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

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