The Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) is considered the cornerstone of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Effective application of the PTD requires a clear understanding of the doctrine and appropriate behavior by trustees, trust managers, and beneficiaries. Most PTD literature refers generically to the role of the government as the people's trustee, without addressing the differences between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government in the United States or recognizing the distinction between elected and appointed officials and career civil servants. Elected and appointed officials, especially in the legislative branch, have policy-level decision-making authority that makes them trustees of the people's wildlife under the PTD. In contrast, career professionals working for state wildlife agencies (SWA's) have ministerial duties as trust managers. The differences between the roles of trustees and trust managers are important. By focusing on their role as trust managers, while supporting and respecting the role of elected and appointed officials as trustees, SWA professionals can more effectively advance application of the PTD.
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