Who owns the shore of Indiana’s section of Lake Michigan when it is not covered in water—a private landowner or the public? In February 2018, the Indiana Supreme Court held that the state of Indiana retains exclusive title up to the natural ordinary high water mark (OHWM) of Lake Michigan. In addition, the court determined the state holds the shores in an inalienable trust for, at
minimum, public uses such as walking and fishing. This ruling expands the access rights of the general public to traverse Indiana’s portion of Lake Michigan’s shores. Environmentalists and public trust advocates hailed the decision as a
milestone public trust precedent which provides a legal foundation for future environmental advocacy in Indiana. This decision is further notable because other Great Lakes states have not been consistent in addressing the question about state title and public rights on the shores of navigable water bodies. Given that the water levels of the Great Lakes already vary significantly and are
expected to vary even more because of the impacts of climate change, the Gunderson decision best supports adaptive shore management. Ultimately, Great Lakes states with flexible and broad public trust doctrines, such as Indiana post-Gunderson, will be best able to manage increasing water-level variability on their shores.