This July, La Porte County Judge Richard R. Stalbrink ruled that Indiana holds the state’s Lake Michigan shore in trust for public uses, including swimming, sunbathing, and other recreational activities. The decision, Gunderson v. State, No. 46D02-1401-PL-606 (LaPorte Super. Ct. 2 July 24, 2015) establishes that citizens’ rights extend beyond the water to an administratively established boundary on the shore, regardless of beach ownership.
On October 26, the CLC submitted comments on the Office of Surface Mining’s proposed Stream Protection Rule on behalf of the Hoosier Environmental Council. The proposed rule updates surface coal mining regulations in light of new information on coal mining’s effects on ecosystems and the difficulty of replacing healthy streams impacted by mining. The proposed rule would allow companies to mine through streams if avoiding the streams is not practicable and the applicant demonstrates that she can replace the form and function of the impacted stream. However, the rule allows states with primary authority over surface coal mining to develop their own standards to measure stream function.
Conservation Law Center Director Bill Weeks has been named Chair of an American Bar Association Task Force on Conservation Easement Law. Under the auspices of the Real Property, Trust, and Estate Law Section, the Task Force will work over the next year to develop recommendations for improving the clarity of applicable federal tax law, and the enhancing the conservation results achieved.
The CLC is assisting The Nature Conservancy in clearing mineral encumbrances from properties in the Wabash River watershed for conservation. Many property owners do not own the mineral rights beneath their property. This means the mineral rights owner can use the surface to reach any coal, oil, or natural gas beneath the property. We are clearing abandoned rights of titles and working with owners with current rights to secure the release of the surface rights so the property can be committed to conservation use without the risk of mining or drilling occurring in the future.