Natural resources law grows out of property law--that is to say, it is primarily the law governing property rights in natural resources such as water, land near waterways, underground energy resources such as coal and natural gas, wildlife, forests, public land, and renewable resources such as wind (as opposed to property rights in buildings and ordinary private real estate). The course will address both natural resources allocated on a first-in-time principle and those dispensed according to notions of reasonable use. Another feature of the course builds on common law doctrines introduced in the first year of law school, such as trespass, nuisance and servitude law, showing how they influence natural resources law.
The overlap between natural resources law and environmental law will be small; while environmental law is primarily about protecting humans from pollution, natural resources law is mostly about individuals’ property rights. However, the course will address environmental issues such as the balance between development and preservation. The course differs from first-year property in that property typically emphasizes the general rules governing private land and buildings, while natural resources law covers specialized doctrines governing other types of property.