David Getches

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David Harding Getches (August 17, 1942 – July 5, 2011) was Dean and Raphael J. Moses Professor of Natural Resources Law at the University of Colorado School of Law in Boulder, Colorado.[1] He taught and wrote on water law, public land law, environmental law, and Indian law.


Getches was born in Abington, Pennsylvania in 1942.[2] Dean Getches received his B.A. from Occidental College and his J.D. degree from the University of Southern California Law School. From 1970 to 1976 he served as Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), a nonprofit law firm specializing in Native American issues. While at NARF, he litigated the controversial case United States v. Washington, 384 F.Supp 312 (W.D. Wash. 1974), also known as the Boldt Decision, a case which affirmed the right of most Indian tribes in Washington State to harvest salmon.

Getches joined the law faculty at the University of Colorado School of Law in 1979. He took two leaves of absence from the university, first to serve as the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, during the administration of Governor Richard Lamm, from 1983 to 1987, and then to serve as a special consultant to the United States Secretary of the Interior in 1996.

In 2003, he was appointed to serve as dean of the law school. On June 30, 2011, Getches stepped down from his position as Dean. He died of an aggressive and advanced form of pancreatic cancer on July 5, 2011.[3]


  • Water Law in a Nutshell (1997);
  • Searching Out the Headwaters: Change and Rediscovery in Western Water Law and Policy, with Bates, MacDonnell and Wilkinson (1993);
  • Controlling Water Use: The Unfinished Business of Water Quality Control, with MacDonnell and Rice (1991);
  • Water Resource Management, with Tarlock and Corbridge (1993);
  • Federal Indian Law, with Wilkinson and Williams (1998).