University of Idaho College of Law
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College of Law

Physical Address:
Menard 101
711 S. Rayburn Drive

Mailing Address:
College of Law
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2321
Moscow, ID 83844-2321

Main Office: 208-885-2255
Admissions: 208-885-2300
Legal Clinic: 208-885-6541
Office of the Dean: 208-364-4620

Fax: 208-885-5709

Email: uilaw@uidaho.edu

Physical Address:
514 W Jefferson Street
Boise, ID 83702

Mailing Address:
College of Law
University of Idaho
P.O. Box 83720-0051
Boise, ID 83720-0051

Phone: 208-364-4560

Fax: 208-334-2176

Email: uilaw@uidaho.edu

Barbara Cosens

Barbara Cosens

University Distinguished Professor Emerita

Mailing Address

College of Law
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2321
Moscow, ID 83844-2321

  • LL.M. Environmental Law (summa cum laude), Lewis and Clark School of Law
  • B.S. Geology, University of California Davis
  • M.S. Geology, University of Washington
  • J.D. University of California Hastings (magna cum laude)

Barbara is a University Distinguished Professor Emerita with the University of Idaho College of Law, where she taught for sixteen years. She was instrumental in the development of the Program in Natural Resources and Environmental Law at the College, and the development of the interdisciplinary Water Resources graduate program that included concurrent JD/MS and JD/PhD degrees. Her teaching and research expertise is in water law, the law-science interface and water dispute resolution. She co-chaired the Adaptive Water Governance project made possible through support from the NSF funded National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, and spent spring 2015 as the Goyder Institute in Australia comparing water law reform in the western U.S. and Australia during drought. In retirement she continues to be active in publication, serves in a senior advisory capacity on grants, and provides graduate student advising. In her outreach and engagement, she continues to provide education and expertise on the Columbia River Treaty as part of the Universities Consortium on Columbia River Governance. She is also working as a mediator on water disputes, particularly disputes among governments.

  • Water Law
  • Law and Science
  • Resilience, law and adaptive governance
  • Interdisciplinary Education
  • Dispute resolution
  • Native American Water Rights

  • U of I Alumni Award for Excellence, Inspirational Mentor 2019 [student recipient: Rebecca Witinok-Huber Ph.D.]
  • U of I Alumni Award for Excellence, Inspirational Mentor 2018 [student recipient: Chris Murray J.D.]
  • U of I Alumni Award for Excellence, Inspirational Mentor 2009 [student recipient: Carmen Thomas Morse]
  • Distinguished Scholar, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, Change in Social-Environmental Systems Immersion Workshop, April 2016;
  • Policy Immersion Workshop, Dec. 13-14, 2016.
  • Editorial Board, Ecology and SocietyA journal of integrative science for resilience and sustainability. 2016-Present
  • University of Idaho Environmental Science and Water Resources Programs Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award 2013
  • University of Idaho Mid-Career Award for Excellence 2013
  • University of Idaho Award for Excellence in Interdisciplinary or Collaborative Efforts 2010
  • Allan G. Shepard Professor 2009-2010, UI Law
  • University of Utah College of Law Stegner Young Scholar 2009
  • William F. and Joan L. Boyd Teaching Award, UI Law, 2008-2009
  • U. Idaho Law Review Faculty Award 2005-2006
  • Palouse Region STAR Award, November, 2005 for contribution to the region by bringing the Indian Water Rights Settlement Conference to Moscow, Idaho
  • Montana State Bar Local Professionalism Award, 1999
  • University of California at Davis Department of Geology Award for Outstanding Achievement

Law Review/Journal Articles

Cosens,Barbara, J. B. Ruhl, Niko Soininen, Lance Gunderson, Antti Belinskij, Thorsten Blenckner, Alejandro E. Camacho, Brian C. Chaffin, Robin Kundis Craig, Holly Doremus, Robert Glicksman, Anna-Stiina Heiskanen, Rhett Larson, and Jukka Similä. Governing complexity: Integrating science, governance, and law to manage accelerating change in the globalized commons. PNAS 2021 Vol. 118 No. 36 e2102798118 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2102798118 available at https://www.pnas.org/content/118/36/e2102798118

Cosens, B., JB Ruhl, Niko Soininen and Lance Gunderson (2020)Enabling Adaptive Governance: Defining the role of government in new governance, 73 (6) Vanderbilt Law Review 1687-1732.

Matsaw, Sammy, Hedden-Nicely, Dylan and Cosens, Barbara A. (2020) Cultural linguistics and Treaty Language: A modernized approach to interpreting treaty language to capture the Tribe’s understanding. 50 Environmental Law 415-446.

Indigenous Water Justice, 22 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 841 (2018) (co-authored with Jason Robison, Sue Jackson, Kelsey Leonard & Daniel McCool). 

Modernization of the Columbia River Treaty: an Opportunity for Idaho, Advocate (Idaho), Aug. 2017, at 34.

Reconciliation of Development and Ecosystems: the Ecology of Governance in the International Columbia River Basin. 18 Regional Envtl. Change 1679–92 (2018) (co-authored with Matthew McKinney, Richard Paisly & Aaron T. Wolf).

Introduction to the Special Feature Practicing Panarchy: Assessing Legal Flexibility, Ecological Resilience, and Adaptive Governance in Regional Water Systems Experiencing Rapid Environmental Change. 23 Ecology & Soc’y art. 4 (2018) (co-authored with Lance Gunderson & Brian C. Chaffin).

Incorporating Social System Dynamics in the Columbia River Basin: Food-Energy-Water Resilience and Sustainability Modeling in the Yakima River Basin. 6 Frontiers Envtl. Sci. art. 104 (2018) (co-authored with Jennifer E. Givens et al.).

The Role of Law in Adaptive Governance. 22 Ecology &Soc’y art. 30 (2017) (co-authored with Robin K. Craig et al.).

Regime Shifts and Panarchies in Regional Scale Social-Ecological Water Systems, 22 Ecology & Soc’y art. 31 (2017) (co-authored with Lance Gunderson et al.).

Books and Book Chapters

Practical Panarchy for Adaptive Water Governance: Linking Law to Social-Ecological Resilience (Barbara Cosens & Lance Gunderson eds., 2018).

An Introduction to Practical Panarchy; Linking Law, Resilience and Adaptive Water Governance of Regional Scale Social Ecological Systemsin Practical Panarchy for Adaptive Water Governance: Linking Law to Social-Ecological Resilience (Barbara Cosens & Lance Gunderson eds., 2018) (co-authored with Lance Gunderson).

Case Studies in Adaptation and Transformation of Ecosystems, Legal Systems and Governance Systemsin Practical Panarchy for Adaptive Water Governance: Linking Law to Social-Ecological Resilience (Barbara Cosens & Lance Gunderson eds., 2018) (co-authored with Lance Gunderson).

Social-Ecological Resilience in The Columbia River Basin: The Role of Law and Governancein Practical Panarchy for Adaptive Water Governance: Linking Law to Social-Ecological Resilience (Barbara Cosens & Lance Gunderson eds., 2018) (co-authored with Alex Fremier).

Assessing Adaptive Water Governance for Lake Eyre Basin and Linked Portions of the Great Artesian Basin in Australiain Practical Panarchy for Adaptive Water Governance: Linking Law to Social-Ecological Resilience (Barbara Cosens & Lance Gunderson eds., 2018) (co-authored with Angela H. Arthington).

Legal Pathways to Adaptive Governance in Water Basins in North America and Australiain Practical Panarchy for Adaptive Water Governance: Linking Law to Social-Ecological Resilience (Barbara Cosens & Lance Gunderson eds., 2018) (co-authored with Robin Kundis Craig et al.).

Trajectories of Change in Regional Scale Social-Ecological Water Systemsin Practical Panarchy for Adaptive Water Governance: Linking Law to Social-Ecological Resilience (Barbara Cosens & Lance Gunderson eds., 2018) (co-authored with Lance Gunderson & Brian C. Chaffin).

Adaptive Water Governance: Summary and Synthesisin Practical Panarchy for Adaptive Water Governance: Linking Law to Social-Ecological Resilience (Barbara Cosens & Lance Gunderson eds., 2018) (co-authored with Lane Gunderson).

Governing the Freshwater Commons: Lessons from Application of the Trilogy of Governance Tools in Australia and the Western United States in Reforming Water Law and Governance: From Stagnation to Innovation in Australia (Cameron Holley & Darren Sinclair eds., 2018).

Book chapters out for review

Social-Ecological Resilience and its Relation to the Social Pillar of Sustainable Developmentin The Cambridge Handbook on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Development (Sumudu Atapattu, Carmen G. Gonzalez & Sara Seck eds, forthcoming).

Excluded Uses: Indigenous Rights to Waterin Oxford Encyclopedia of Water Resources Management and Policy (Dan Tarlock ed., forthcoming).

Indigenous Rights to Waterin 9 Encyclopedia of Environmental Law (Joyeeta Gupta & Joseph Dellapenna eds., forthcoming).

Recent Blog Posts

A Tribute to the Scholarship of Dale Goble

Posted Mon, 11 Nov 2019 15:47:00 -0800

The University of Idaho College of Law hosted a festschrift in honor of our colleague, Professor Emeritus Dale Goble, on Friday, November 1 at the U of I Water Center in Boise. Read more

University Distinguished Professor Cosens moderates a panel on Walker River/Walker Lake Litigation: The Public Trust Doctrine in Nevada at the annual ABA Water Law Conference in Denver

Posted Thu, 11 Apr 2019 09:55:00 -0700

The annual ABA Water Law Conference brings water law experts and practitioners from all over the US to discuss the latest issues/disputes in water law. This panel covered a case of first impression before the Nevada Supreme Court on certification from the Ninth Circuit on whether, under Nevada law, the public trust doctrine requires the State’s water administrative agency to curtail the exercise of existing water rights to protect a public trust resource and whether doing so would constitute a taking. Read more

University Distinguished Professor Barbara Cosens serves as leadoff speaker at a workshop on Bioethics and Adaptive Governance at the Brocher Foundation

Posted Thu, 06 Dec 2018 16:34:00 -0800

Professor Cosens was recently invited to introduce her work on adaptive governance in the natural resources and environmental field to a group of European and Australian scholars considering its potential application to emerging technologies in the field of health. Read more

College of Law

Physical Address:
Menard 101
711 S. Rayburn Drive

Mailing Address:
College of Law
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2321
Moscow, ID 83844-2321

Main Office: 208-885-2255
Admissions: 208-885-2300
Legal Clinic: 208-885-6541
Office of the Dean: 208-364-4620

Fax: 208-885-5709

Email: uilaw@uidaho.edu

Physical Address:
514 W Jefferson Street
Boise, ID 83702

Mailing Address:
College of Law
University of Idaho
P.O. Box 83720-0051
Boise, ID 83720-0051

Phone: 208-364-4560

Fax: 208-334-2176

Email: uilaw@uidaho.edu