Signature Collecting Ends 
for Public Trust Doctrine Initiatives
#3 & 45

Unfortunately, we were unable to reach the goal of 100,000 signatures, to meet the state requirements for getting our initiatives on the ballot.  If you have signatures that have not yet been turned in to Lucinda Schneller, please send them to her at your earliest convenience (both completed and notarized and partially completed forms). Her address is on each petition.
We would like to sincerely thank all those many folks who collected signatures, donated to this cause, hosted events, and spread the news of these citizen-powered initiatives! 
We made a valiant effort to reassert  public ownership and oversight to sustainable management of Colorado waters. While we were unsuccessful in getting these initiatives on the ballot for 2012, we did have some significant achievements:
  • The extraordinary research, administrative and legal efforts of the initiative authors, Richard Hamilton and Phil Doe, resulted in successful review by Legislative Council and, a successful outcome to the legal challenge mounted by the Water Congress.  The initiatives legally prevailed in the Colorado Supreme Court Review.  (However, the legal challenge removed 3 and a half months from our campaign efforts.)
  • The initiatives generated extraordinary enthusiasm and dedication, and resulted in a pure citizen-powered whirlwind of signature collection and educational events.  Our collective efforts brought to the fore the critical issues that the initiatives sought to address in our state, issues underscored by the summer’s terrible wildfires, 60-70% statewide drought conditions, the competition for water between farmers and oil and gas, and the scientific projections of increasing water scarcity in our state. 
  • The initiatives campaign re-dedicated all of us to the urgency and necessity of our efforts. While the  “Protect Colorado Water” campaign of initiatives #3 and #45 is closing down, our commitment  to the public trust doctrine, to the protection of Colorado water, is not shut down, rather, it is galvanized
We are firmly committed to resolving these issues in our state and will be forming a new campaign - with a longer lead time for planning, alliance forming, education around the issues, and to raise the necessary financial donations we will need to achieve our goals.  

Thank you again for your interest and support and to your civic engagement that means so much to our state.

Protect Colorado Water

Initiatives 3 & 45


Water is the lifeblood of Colorado. It is one of our state’s most precious resources and is valued by both individuals and industry. As Colorado’s population has grown, demand for water has gone up while supply has not, and access is becoming limited.

Initiatives 3 & 45 were born out of the need to protect and provide for better access to Colorado’s water and preserve this precious resource now and into the future. The initiatives codifies the Public Trust Doctrine in Colorado’s Constitution and reaffirm the public’s ownership of Colorado’s water[1] and the state as steward of the peoples’ property and is charged with its protection and enforcement of the public’s interest. Together, these initiatives create:

“an obligation to protect the public’s interests in water” and prevent any use that would cause “irreparable harm” to water.

As of January 2012, 62% of Colorado’s streams are polluted.[2] Not only does this impact the health and wellbeing of everyday Coloradans, it has a tremendous impact on our state’s economy. Initiatives 3 & 45, at their core, aim to protect and preserve Colorado water and will have widespread and significant impact on the economic health of our state.

Impact of 3 & 45

Both of the initiatives have a tremendous impact on how water is managed, utilized and protected. With the passage of Initiatives 3 & 45, all water in the State of Colorado will be reaffirmed as for the benefit of all. Rivers and streams would become “public highways” across the state open for use and recreation. Additionally, those who harm Colorado’s water will be held responsible for damage to the water including unreasonable contamination, pollution and destruction.

With these initiatives, ANYONE will be able to enjoy the natural waterways of Colorado. This means you can fish streams, float rivers and relax on a lake. Currently, landowners have the ability to dam or block access to water that crosses their property if they have water rights. The Trust reaffirms that the public’s right to water is superior to all water and contractual rights. In Colorado there are many users who are responsible and treat this resource with respect, open the water to recreation and sportsman and reasonably use water for their needs. However, there are others who take advantage of this resource to the detriment of people, wildlife and the overall environment. These initiatives would change that.

With the adoption of 3 & 45, the State of Colorado would be responsible and accountable to the citizens of Colorado to ensure our waterways are protected, maintained and open to all.

There have been questions raised from people who have a river or stream running through their property or a private lake. People are concerned that others will cross their property to get to the accesses the water. Under the Trust, the public CANNOT cross private property to access water; it must be accessed through a public right of way. In the case of a private lake, the Trust is not applicable and the lake remains private property. Land and property owners can enforce the law against trespassers just as they can today. In states that have applied the Public Trust Doctrine, the courts have repeatedly protected property rights.

Financial Impact of 3 & 45

The financial impact of Initiatives 3 & 45 is currently being analyzed by the State of Colorado. It is expected the Public Trust Doctrine will have a positive impact on our state’s economy through increased tourism, decreased pollution and overall heath of our state.

Who benefits from Initiatives 3 & 45?

Sportsman and Recreation

Hunting and fishing is over a billion-dollar industry in the State of Colorado.[3] The preservation and protection of wildlife is one of the goals of these initiatives. Hunters and fishermen want to be able to hunt game and fish not only in locations that are safe but also want game and fish that are healthy and prosperous. This can only be accomplished with clean and protected water. In 15 states that have applied the Public Trust Doctrine, wildlife is discussed as a reason for adoption.[4]

Initiatives 3 & 45 would go a long way to ensure our wildlife and fish can thrive without the fear of contamination from pollutants. Residents and visitors enjoy Colorado’s natural beauty and we need to ensure people have the ability to access our resources responsibly and safely.


Nationally, the outdoors industry generates nearly $300 Billion and 6.5 million jobs.[5] In Colorado, over 33,000 jobs rely on access and availability of our state’s outdoor treasures.[6] Additionally, many other industries rely on clean water and recreation to be successful. Allowing access and ensuring water is clean will help our state’s business to thrive as well as attract new, job-creating industry to our state.

The Environment

Initiatives 3 & 45 will impact the environment in a positive manner. From ensuring water is clean to allowing unfettered access to waterways, these initiatives return our water to a more natural state.


Colorado is not alone in moving forward with the Public Trust Doctrine. 41 other states, including neighboring states of Wyoming and Kansas, have recognized the Trust as a valid legal doctrine and a number have codified it in their state constitution.[7] Since ancient times, the right of the public to “own” water and waterways has been the norm rather than the exception and with the growing demand for water and decreasing resources, state have looked to the Public Trust Doctrine as a means of protection. In Colorado, we need to join our western neighbors in passing Initiatives 3 & 45. It is in the best interest of our state, all who call Colorado home and those who come here to enjoy all our state has to offer.

On April 16th, the Colorado Supreme Court approved the text for ballot initiatives 3 and 45 and Protect Colorado Water is currently gathering signatures to place both on the November 2012 ballot. To volunteer and help spread information to your community, please click here.

[1] Title XVI, §5 of the Colorado State Constitution

[2] http://www.environmentamerica.org/news/coe/over-100-public-leaders-business-owners-local-farmers-call-protections-colorado%E2%80%99s-rivers

[3] The Economic Impact of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife Watching in Colorado, BBC Research and Consulting, Denver, CO, Sept. 26, 2008.

[4] From Ancient Rome…To the Ruby River, Why the Public Trust Doctrine Matters to You, Chris Smith, Wildlife Management Institute, April 20, 2012.

[5] Economic Impact of Outdoors Huge in Colorado, Dave Buchanan, GJ Sentential, December 3, 2011.

[6] Economic Impact of Outdoors Huge in Colorado, Dave Buchanan, GJ Sentential, December 3, 2011.

[7] From Ancient Rome…To the Ruby River, Why the Public Trust Doctrine Matters to You, Chris Smith, Wildlife Management Institute, April 20, 2012.


12 thoughts on “Home

  1. Pingback: Be The Change U.S.A.

  2. The framers of the Colorado Constitution clearly desired that the water of Colorado be held in trust by the people of Colorado. The attack on the part of the Constitution by corporations who spread misinformation and lies is unacceptable. Water in Colorado is in short supply and should not be given to corporations who will use it for their own advantage and to the detriment of the environment.

      • @Tony: Actually, it’s “xeriscape”, referring to xeric plants, those that have low water requirements. Agree with you on the green lawn requirement, though, which we have in our covenants. It never did make sense to me and I could easily have landscaped without grass when I moved into this house when it was new!

  3. The oil and gas industry has only one goal: Profit. We are all effected negatively when our water is compromised or taken. It is down to survival and I chose water.

    • I agree but the state agency that is in the business of providing permits to drill, the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission has strong links to the oil and gas industry. They have little funding for inspection, regulation and clean up. Why would we give up water rights to another state agency who may get in the same situation?

  4. VOTERS TAKE NOTICE:: Go to this site to see the huge economic value of the Colorado River to our 6 Western States*, and stop those huge industries and corporations from accessing our water for their own profit.
    It states: “If the Colorado River were a company, it would rank #155 in the 2011 Fortune 500 ahead of General Mills, US Airways, and Progressive Insurance and would be the 19th largest employer in the Fortune 500.”
    The River is a $26 Billion recreation resource employing a quarter million Americans! pouring millions of dollars into local businesses and State treasuries.
    *(Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming)

    • It looks like I didn’t read very far into this. We are very concerned about protecting our water, air and environment from oil and gas development – but not at the expense of taking away personal property-water rights. Caveat emptor….Please ready the following:
      Justice Hobbs stated in his dissenting opinion in In re Title, Ballot Title and Submission Clause for 2011-12 #45, “Masquerading as a measure to protect the public’s control of water, it would prevent farmers, cities, families and businesses from making beneficial use of water rights that have vested in them over the past 150 years under Colorado’s statues and constitution.”

      • Doesn’t it seem odd that a man who is charged with observing judicial restraint should launch into baseless fulminations over these two initiatives. Maybe his attitude has something to do with the fact that he was, before being appointed to the court, the water attorney for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and that even now he takes an active roll in promoting water development as the 1st Vice President of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, which many see as an organ of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the state’s traditional water development agency which provides low interest loans and grants to a small knot of water developers and farmers. Objectivity or judicial restraint is not the Justice’s strong suit.

        • It might be worth looking at Justice Hobb’s entire career, including time served in the Peace Corps, as a 6th grade and university level teacher on environmental law, and for the EPA. Too often, rather than make a reasoned argument, the person is attacked and assumptions made about their motivations.

          There is a lot at stake in regards to how we manage and allocate Colorado’s water– and these initiatives make sweeping changes that would likely have many unintended consequences, create uncertainty for many of our economic sectors that are vital to the future (agriculture being one of the key ones– but private land conservation is another, in which valuations of conserved lands and water could be thrown into question.) There are many opportunities to collaborate to evolve water law and practice to meet many needs and sustain our economy. Why not work together on those?

          FYI, here’s Justice Hobb’s bio from the court’s website at: http://www.courts.state.co.us/Bio.cfm?Employee_ID=65. He’s a distinguished jurist and dedicated to public education through the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and many other means. Feel free to disagree with him, but attacking his person and motives is a weak argument at best.
          Justice Gregory Hobbs: CAREER: Appointed by Governor Roy Romer to the Colorado Supreme Court April 18, 1996. Retained by Colorado voters after a two-year provisional term for ten-year terms commencing January 1999 and January 2009. Practiced law for 23 years, with emphasis on water, environment, land use, and transportation. Former senior partner, Hobbs, Trout & Raley P.C.; Partner, Davis, Graham & Stubbs; First Assistant Attorney General, Natural Resources Section, State of Colorado; Enforcement Attorney, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Law Clerk for Judge William E. Doyle, U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Taught sixth grade in New York City and served with the Peace Corps in South America.

          PROFESSIONAL: Member, American, Colorado and Denver Bar Associations, American Bar Foundation, Colorado Bar Foundation. Admitted to practice in Colorado and California (inactive). Former Adjunct Professor, Environmental Law, Master’s Program in Environmental Policy and Management, University of Denver.

          CIVIC: Vice-President, Colorado Foundation for Water Education; Co-Convenor, Dividing the Waters (Western Water Judges Project). Former Vice Chair, Colorado Air Quality Commission. Former Member, Regional Air Quality Council, Metropolitan Transportation Development Commission, Governor’s Water Roundtable, Governor’s Transportation Roundtable, and Wilderness Air Quality Related Values Task Force. Member, Colorado Authors League. Author of In Praise of Fair Colorado, The Practice of Poetry, History and Judging (Bradford Publishing Co. 2004); Colorado Mother of Rivers, Water Poems (Colorado Foundation for Water Education 2005); The Public’s Water Resource, Articles on Water Law, History, and Culture (Continuing Legal Education in Colorado Inc. 2007) and Living the Four Corners, Colorado Centennial State at the Headwaters (Continuing Legal Education in Colorado Inc., 2010).

          PERSONAL: Born December 15, 1944, in Gainesville, Florida. Received B.A. in History, Magna Cum Laude, from University of Notre Dame, 1966. J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall), 1971, Order of the Coif, Supreme Court Editor, California Law Review. Spouse Bobbie served as Director of the Children’s Garden Montessori School for 31 years in Denver before her retirement. Children: Dan and Emily. Grandchildren Joni, K.J., Shannon, Ella, and Quinn.

  5. The Denver Water Board, Division of Wildlife and the National Forest Service are all in bed together pushing forth mitigation and water projects that are not needed. Only the rich developers and big oil companies will win at the expense of the State of Colorado. It is not right.

  6. I challenge anyone who would vote to sell water rights to the fracking industry, to spend just one ten hour day without taking a sip of any liquid and then cast their vote on wasting water. I have been there, and it gives you a new perspective on preserving water. On top of wasting the water they purchase, they are also polluting wells in the surrounding area. Any of you politicians up for the challenge?

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