From Martz to the Twenty-First Century: A Half-Century of Natural Resources Law Casebooks and Pedagogy

Contributor Roles

David H. Becker, L.L.M. 2006, Lewis & Clark Law School; Staff Attorney for Western Resource Advocates

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University of Colorado Law Review

Journal Abbreviation

U. Colo. L. Rev.


Clyde Martz published the first natural resources law casebook in 1951, combining the previously discrete subjects of water law, mining law, and oil and gas law. Martz relied almost exclusively on case excerpts and emphasized the creation of private rights in natural resources. Over the next-half century, through several generations of casebooks, the natural resources course developed in response to the rise of the environmental movement and a series of energy crises. This article traces the evolution of the natural resources law casebooks from Martz's pioneering effort through several generations of texts to a new generation of casebooks that has been published over the past couple of years. Through the years, the casebook authors have variously emphasized the allocation of private rights vs. public management, extractive rights vs. resource preservation, public vs. private lands, Western vs. Eastern issues, and case law vs. secondary materials. Some have emphasized economic themes, others ecosystem preservation, and the article illustrates these variations by focusing on the books' approach to the water resource, arguably with most important natural resource. After the past quarter-century of dominance by the Coggins, Wilkinson & Leshy book, a public lands-oriented casebook, the new generation of four texts seeks at least to balance private lands and Eastern issues against Western public lands, and in one case focuses on state private property law as the dominant forum for resolving natural resource disputes. The new generation also emphasizes place-based contextual approaches and employs materials well beyond traditional case law, including web-based resources, visual aids, maps, charts, diagrams, and the like, as well as many secondary sources.

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