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Michelle  Bryan

Michelle Bryan

Associate Professor of Law / Co-Director, Land Use & Natural Resources Clinic
Law 110

Professor Michelle Bryan teaches in the Natural Resources & Environmental Law Program and is Co-Director of the Land Use & Natural Resources Clinic, which works on behalf of Montana governments and is among only a few such clinics nationwide. She has been honored to receive the Garlington, Lohn & Robinson Faculty Teaching Award and the Margery Hunter Brown Faculty Merit Award for her professionalism in the classroom, her research, and her public service.

Growing up in farming and ranching communities in the West, Professor Bryan was drawn to the fields of natural resources and environmental law.  Before joining the law faculty, she worked in private practice representing a variety of clients including local governments, private landowners, non-profits, developers, and affected neighbors and community groups. She brings this diversity of perspective to her scholarship, her teaching, and her work with government clients. Her current research interests include the relationship between land and water use, planning in an age of climate change, the balancing of environmental and land use rights, and the role of public trust in water use.

Outside of teaching, Professor Bryan has served as board member and past president of the Montana Justice Foundation.  She enjoys hiking, fly fishing, and exploring the vast spaces of Montana.  Professor Bryan graduated from The University of Montana School of Law with high honors and served as an editor of the Montana Law Review. Prior to law school she was a policy specialist for the Water Resources Center in Bozeman, Montana.


Natural Resources Law Section, Association of American Law Schools (Executive Committee Member 2012-Present).

Montana Justice Foundation (Board Member 2005-2012, President 2010-2012, Ex Officio Member 2013).

Member, Montana Small Business Compliance Assistance Advisory Council (Gubernatorial Appointment 2010-Present).

Technical Advisory Panel Member for the Montana Department of Transportation online website – Montana Transportation and Land Use Resources for Growing Communities (2008-2010).


Toward Engaged Scholarship (forthcoming in Pace Law Review 2014) (with John R. Nolon and others).

 A Next, Big Step for the West: Using Model Legislation to Create Water-Climate Elements in Local Comprehensive Plans,

32 Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy 1 (2013).

 Hitching Our Wagon to a Dim Star: Why Outmoded Water Codes and “Public Interest” Review Cannot Protect the Public Trust in Western Water Law, 32 Stanford Environmental Law Journal 283 (2013).

Montana v. Wyoming: An Opportunity to Right the Course for Coalbed Methane Development and Prior Appropriation, Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal (2012).

 Montana Chapter, The Law of Eminent Domain (ABA Publishing 2012), maintained at

A “Constant and Difficult Task”: Making Local Land Use Decisions in States with a Constitutional Right to a Healthful Environment, 38 Berkeley Ecology Law Quarterly 101 (2011).

The Role of Fish and Wildlife Evidence in Local Land Use Regulation, 30 Pub. Land & Res. L. Rev. 107 (2009) (with students DarAnne Dunning and Melissa Hayes).                 

Was the Big Sky Really Falling? Examining Montana’s Response to Kelo v. City of New London, 69 Mont. L. Rev. 79 (2008).


A Comparative Study of Federal-Local Planning Approaches Across Federal Land Management Agencies, Panelist, J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Environmental Law Symposium: The Role of Planning in Federal Land Management, Panelist (March 2014 at George Washington University).

Unseating the Lords of Yesterday: Water Law’s Historical Roots and Future Challenges, 16th Annual Community Lecture Series: Western Rivers: Connecting Landscapes & Livelihoods (UM Alumni Association, March 2014). 

The Law of Ditch Easements, Water Policy Interim Committee, Montana Legislature (2013).

Land: Updated Regulatory Approaches to Energy Development on Public Lands, Moderator, 35th Public Land Law Symposium and 41st ABA-SEER Conference on the “Environment: Balancing Act & Paradigm Shift: The Role of Public Lands in America’s Energy Future,” University of Montana (April 2013).

Clean Water Act on Trial, Moderator, Annual Plum Creek Conference, University of Montana School of Forestry & Conservation (2013) (discussing Northwest Environmental Defense Center v. Brown).

New Voices in Environmental Law, Paper Presentation, Environmental and Natural Resources Sections, AALS Annual Meeting (2011) (discussing constitutional rights to a healthful environment) .

The Laws that Govern Land, Water, Rocks and Trees , Panelist, Society of Environmental Journalists Conference (2010).

A Water Primer: Pollution, Rights, Species and Utilities, Panelist, Society of Environmental Journalists Conference (2010).

The Montana Constitution’s Clean & Healthful Environment Provisions, Panelist, The Honorable James R. Browning Symposium on the Montana Constitution (2010).

Land Use & Water: Focusing on Exempt Wells, Panelist, Montana Watershed Symposium (2010).

Crossing the Bridge: How Students Move From Novice to Professional By Leading Community Workshops, Poster Presentation, AALS National Conference on Clinical Legal Education (2010).

Preparing Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, Montana Local Government Workshop Series (2009-2010).

Basics of Montana Water Law, Water Policy Interim Committee, Montana Legislature (2009).

Stream Access Panel, Moderator, The Honorable James R. Browning Symposium on Rural Law (2009).

Using Model Legislation to Integrate Land Use and Water Use Planning at the Community Level, Water Policy Interim Committee, Montana Legislature (2008).

An Immodest Proposal: Tying Land Use and Water Use Planning, Annual New West Conference on Real Estate and Development in the Northern Rockies (2007).