DNRC Water Resources and Trust Lands Management Divisions (Helena Office)

Field Placement
Academic Year/Summer

Faculty Supervisor

Professor Sandi Zellmer

Supervising Attorney

Barbara Chillcott


Professional Responsibility 


It is strongly recommended that students in this clinic take Introduction to Environmental Law, Public Land and Resources Law, Water Law, and Administrative Law. Natural Resources and Energy Law and Oil and Gas may also be useful.

Areas of Emphasis

Public land law; environmental and natural resources law; water law; oil and gas law; administrative law; transactional law; legal research and writing; transactional drafting; regulatory drafting; legislative research; litigation support; potential courtroom work.

Sample Projects

  • Research issues involving ownership of state lands
  • Research issues involving Montana Water Use Act
  • Research issues involving leasing of state-owned mineral rights
  • Writing memos on a variety of legal issues
  • Drafting transactional documents
  • Reviewing contracts
  • Legislative research and drafting
  • Litigation support including drafting and reviewing discovery, assisting with preparation for and attending depositions, drafting and reviewing motions, assisting with preparation for and attending oral arguments and hearings
  • Research in the areas of ethics, employment law, and public information
  • Provide day to day advice to clients

General Information

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Water Resources and Trust Lands Management Divisions (“DNRC”) conduct a wide array of legal services, including prosecuting and defending law suits, conducting administrative hearings, drafting contracts and rights-of-way, and providing day-to-day legal advice to agency personnel. Students in the DNRC field placement conduct and/or assist with many of these legal services, including a host of legal research and drafting projects. DNRC’s duties include coordinating the development and utilization of the state’s waters through the Montana Water Use Act, specifically protecting existing uses and promoting adequate future supplies of water for domestic, industrial, agricultural, recreation, as well as the conservation of water for wildlife, aquatic life, and other beneficial uses. DNRC also administers and manages the state trust timber, surface, and mineral resources for the benefit of the common schools and other endowed institutions of Montana. To that end, DNRC is responsible for leasing and managing agreements for crop and rangeland uses on trust lands; managing forested lands to maximize long term revenue while promoting healthy forests; leasing, permitting, and managing oil and gas, coal, sand, and gravel agreements on trust lands; and managing all other activity on trust lands including land exchanges and sales, cabin site leases, and issuing right-of-way agreements.