Sandra B. Zellmer

Robert B. Daugherty Professor of Law

260 LAW UNL 68583-0902
(402)472-1245 | Email

Areas of Expertise
  • Natural Resources and Public Lands
  • Water Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Torts
  • LL.M. - Environmental Law, with Highest Honors, 1996, The George Washington University National Law Center
  • J.D., Sterling Honor Graduate (summa cum laude equivalent), 1990, University of South Dakota School of Law
  • B.S., magna cum laude, 1985, Morningside College


  • Robert B. Daugherty Professor of Law (2012-present)
  • Alumni Professor of Natural Resources Law (2008-2012)
  • McCollum Research Chair (2008-09)
  • Hevelone Research Chair (2006-07)
  • Co-Director, UNL Water Resources Research Initiative (2003-10)
  • Advisory Board, Water for Food Institute, (2010-present)
  • Committee Member, National Academy of Sciences National Research Council - Missouri River Recovery and Associated Sediment Management Issues (2008-10)
  • Member, IUCN Commission on Environmental Law, Water & Wetlands Specialist Group, (2006-present)
  • Member, Resilience Alliance, (2006-present)
  • Member Scholar, Center for Progressive Regulation (2004-present)
  • Trustee, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (2004-present)
  • Chair, American Bar Association Section on Environment, Energy, and Resources Committee on Marine Resources (2002-04);
  • Member, Committee on Water Resources (2004-present)


Sandra Zellmer began teaching at the College of Law in 2003. She teaches and writes about natural resources, water law, public lands, wildlife, environmental law, and related topics. She also serves on the Steering Committee for the University's Global Water for Food Institute.

Zellmer is a co-author and principal editor of a casebook, Natural Resources Law, published by Thomson/West Publishing (with Professors Laitos and Wood) (2d edition forthcoming in 2012). She has published dozens of book chapters and articles, and was awarded "Best Paper" by the American Bar Association for her work on "Missouri River Mud: Clean Water and Endangered Species," which she presented at the ABA's Annual Water Law Conference in 2011. She also served as a committee member on the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council Committee on Missouri River Recovery; the committee report was published in 2010. Also in 2011, Zellmer gave a presentation about U.S. water law at the M.S. Swaminathan Institute in Chennai, India, with members of the Global Water for Food Institute. For the past few years, she has conducted a training session on wilderness management at the Carhart Federal Wilderness Center in Missoula, MT.

Previously, Professor Zellmer was a member of the faculty at the University of Toledo College of Law from 1998 - 2004. She has been a visiting professor at both Tulane Law School and Drake University Law School. Prior to teaching, she was a trial attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, litigating public lands and wildlife issues for various federal agencies, including the National Forest Service, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service. She also practiced law at Faegre & Benson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and clerked for the Honorable William W. Justice, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas.

Lands and Natural Resources

Law 698/G (1-4 cr) Acquisition and disposition of the public domain; jurisdiction over public lands; withdrawals and reservations; mining and mineral leasing on public lands; range, forest, and wildlife management, recreation, and preservation.

Water Law, Planning and Policy

Law 776/G (AECN *876) (1-4 cr) Judicial, legislative, and administrative problems in water resource development, allocation, and control.

Environmental Law

Law 641/G (AECN *841) (1-4 cr) Legal problems encountered as a result of the impairment of the quality of the environment. Control of air, water, land, noise, and radiation pollution, and the roles of federal, interstate, state, and local agencies in affording protection. Includes private actions, class actions, and regulatory actions to protect both private and public interests.

Environmental Law and Water Resource Management Seminar

Law 774/G (CIVE 916; NRES 916) (1-4 cr, max 4) Prereq: Permission. An interdisciplinary seminar with the Department of Civil Engineering. Contemporary environmental issues and water resource management.

Environmental Ethics and Law Seminar

Law 623/G (3 cr) Lec 3. Key theories in environmental ethics and environmental law; enhanced ability to analyze critically and communicate clearly and persuasively in an interdisciplinary forum through writing, informal discussion, and formal presentations; and a deeper understanding of sustainability as a principle of environmental law and ethics especially in agriculturally dominated landscapes. Nature of ethics and its relation to law; climate change; bio-fuels with implications for farm communities, water resources, and food supplies; and genetically modified organisms (GMO's).

Torts I & II

Law 503/G & 504/G (EDAD *874 & *875) (1-6 cr, max 6 per class) Legal protection afforded in civil proceedings against interference with the security of one's person, property, relations, and other intangible interests. Substantive principles that govern tort claims (ranging from claims for intentional wrongdoing, to negligence claims, to claims that the defendant is strictly liable for harms caused to the plaintiff), and the theoretical bases and practical implications of such claims.



  • Treading Water, Just Barely: Congressional Apathy Toward the Nation’s Environment, 88 Notre Dame L. Rev (2013)
  • Institutional Ability to Support Adaptive Water Resources Management, 91 Neb. L. Rev. (2013) (with Hoffman)
  • The Shallows Where Federal Reserved Water Rights Founder: State Court Derogation of the Winters Doctrine, Den. Water L. Rev. (2013) (with Huber)
  • Improving Water Pollution Anti-degradation Policies, G.W. J. E. & Env. Law (with Glicksman) (2012)
  • Managed Relocation: Integrating the Scientific, Regulatory, and Ethical Challenges, 62 BIOSCIENCE 8 (2012)
  • Wilderness, Water, and Climate Change, 42 ENVIRONMENTAL LAW 313 (2012)
  • Throwing Precaution to the Wind: NEPA and the Deepwater Horizon Blowout, 2 G.W. J. ENV. & ENERGY L. 83 (with Glicksman & Mintz) (2011)
  • Mudslinging or Peacemaking: Resolving Conflicts between Clean and Clear Water, 16 DRAKE A.L.J. 1 (2011)
  • Preemption by Stealth, 45 HOUS. L.REV. 1659 (2009)
  • Why Resilience May Not Always be a Good Thing: Lessons in Ecosystem Restoration, 87 NEB. L. REV. 893 (2009) (with Gunderson)
  • Unbundling Property in Water, 59 ALA. L.REV. 679 (2008) (with Harder)
  • The Anti-Speculation Doctrine and its Implications for Collaborative Water Management, 8 NEV. L.J. 994 (2008)
  • Boom and Bust on the Great Plains: Déjà vu All Over Again, 41 CREIGHTON L.REV. 385 (2008)
  • Mississippi River Stories: Lessons from a Century of Unnatural Disasters, 60 S.M.U. L.REV. 101 (2007) (with Klein)
  • A Tale of Two Imperiled Rivers: Reflections from a Post-Katrina World, 59 FL. L.REV. 599 (2007)
  • A New Corps of Discovery for Missouri River Management, 83 NEB. L.REV. 305 (2004)
  • A Preservation Paradox: Political Prestidigitation and an Enduring Resource of Wildness, 34 ENVTL. L. 1015 (2004)
  • Sustaining Geographies of Hope: Cultural Resources on Public Lands, 73 COLO.L.REV. 413 (2002)
  • Biodiversity in and Around McElligot's Pool, 38 ID. L.REV. 473 (2002) (with Johnson)
  • The Nondelegation Doctrine: Fledgling Phoenix or Ill-fated Albatross?, 31 ELR 11,151 (2001)
  • The Protection of Cultural Resources on Public Lands, 31 ELR 10,689 (2001), reprinted in 39 PUBLIC LD. & RESOURCES LAW DIGEST 101 (2002) (anthology)
  • The Virtues of Command and Control Regulation: Barring Exotic Species from Aquatic Ecosystems through the Clean Water Act, 2000 U. ILL. L.REV. 1233 (2000)
  • The Devil, The Details, and the Dawn of the 21st Century Administrative State: Beyond the New Deal, 32 ARIZ. ST. L.J. 941 (2000)
  • Indian Lands as Critical Habitat for Indian Nations & End. Species, 43 S.D.L.REV. 381 (1998)
  • Sacrificing Legislative Integrity at the Altar of Appropriations Riders: A Constitutional Crisis, 21 HARV. ENVTL. L.REV. 457 (1997)

Research Areas

  • Water Law
  • Natural Resources
  • Public Lands
  • Constitutional and Environmental Issues
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Comparative Environmental Law