Trusts, More Generally- A Guest Post from Steve Wilent

Folks, Here’s an excerpt from my Editor’s Notebook column from August 2012, in which the two main types of trusts are defined, thanks to the folks at the conference mentioned: public trusts and real trusts.

Steve Wilent, Editor, The Forestry Source.

The conference I mentioned, “Trust Management: A Viable Option for Public Forest Lands?”—sponsored by the Western Forestry and Conservation Association and the American Forest Resource Council—was held in June in Tigard, Oregon. The event featured notable speakers such as Jay O’Laughlin, director of the Policy Analysis Group at the University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources; Ann Forest Burns, AFRC vice-president; and US Rep. Kurt Schrader, of Oregon. Elaine Spencer, an attorney with Graham & Dunn PC, a Seattle-based law firm, explained a key concept: The difference between a “public trust” and a “real trust.”

Washington’s Department of Ecology, for example, bases its management of shorelines on the public trust doctrine, a legal principle derived from English Common Law: “The essence of the doctrine is that the waters of the state are a public resource owned by and available to all citizens equally for the purposes of navigation, conducting commerce, fishing, recreation, and similar uses and that this trust is not invalidated by private ownership of the underlying land. The doctrine limits public and private use of tidelands and other shorelands to protect the public’s right to use the waters of the state.”

Protection of the trust is carried out through laws such as the state’s Shoreline Management Act.

In contrast, in a real trust, or real property trust, land or some other real asset is held in trust for specific beneficiaries. Washington has about 2.2 million acres of trust land—public land that is managed for timber, agriculture, grazing, and other uses. The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy ( describes it this way: “Unlike public lands, state trust lands are publicly owned lands that are held in trust by the state for specifically designated beneficiaries. As trustees, the state Legislature has a fiduciary duty to manage the lands for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the trust grant. These lands are managed for a diverse range of uses to meet that responsibility—generating revenue for the designated beneficiaries, today and for future generations.”

In Washington, the state trust land beneficiaries are schools, state universities, prisons, and other institutions.

Forest Trust Beneficiaries – Forestry Source August 2012-1 a link to Steve’s August 2012 editorial “Forest Trust Beneficiaries – Forestry Source August 2012.

3 thoughts on “Trusts, More Generally- A Guest Post from Steve Wilent”

  1. This is nothing more than the latest gambit for corporate interests to steal the public’s resources, and in essence the land itself.

    • If it didn’t happen 20 years ago, what makes you think such things can happen today?!? Pretending that “nature” or “Gaia” can fix our forest problems without human intervention is the equivalent of a “faith-based” dismissal of science.


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