In recent decades there has been a shift in attitude in relation to natural resource management. Whereas in the past positivist legal approaches have been taken to environmental regulation, increasingly attention is turning towards more decentralised and community-based practices. Initiatives that involve the participation of all stakeholders are clearly morally persuasive and socially responsible. Furthermore, from a practical perspective many such projects have had positive social and environmental outcomes. However, there is relatively little literature devoted to identifying the legal frameworks that could be used to support community-based environmental management. This paper seeks to fill that gap by providing an introduction to the legal theories, principles and concepts that may be used as a foundation for legal frameworks that support communities taking control of their own environment. In particular, attention will be given to Indigenous communities and the concepts of environmental justice as well as principles of international law including human rights and the emerging law of sustainable development.