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common contaminants

The Public Trust Doctrine

The Wisconsin Constitution declares that all navigable waters are “common highways and forever free” and are held in trust by the state of Wisconsin for the benefit of all the people who live here.

Bradford Beach Public Rights

A Duty to Protect

Wisconsin’s public trust doctrine requires state government to prevent the impairment of public waters and their uses. While these uses were once understood to include only access to public waters for navigation and commercial purposes, the public trust is now understood to encompass public rights to water quantity and quality, recreational uses and scenic beauty. Over the last century, state courts have consistently upheld and strengthened this constitutional responsibility to protect Wisconsin’s lakes, streams, and rivers.