Weyerhaeuser/Markle v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Edward Poitevent’s family has owned land in Louisiana since the end of the Civil War. The land in St. Tammany Parish is rich in lumber and is the major source of his family’s livelihood. In 1953, after nearly losing their property during the Great Depression, the Poitevent family signed a 90-year lease which has allowed the family to keep the land. And in the 1990s, Weyerhaeuser Company acquired the Poitevents’ lease for its timber operations.
Edward considers the land as much more than an investment. “It’s like a piece of family silver or a treasured piece of art. It’s a family asset and I’d love to be able to pass it on to my own children,” he says.
But in 2012, under cover of the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared more than 1,500 acres of property owned by Edward and Weyerhaeuser a critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog.
No one in the entire state of Louisiana has spotted the frog in 50 years. The only place the frog is found today is nearly 70 miles away from Edward’s property in Mississippi. In fact, the critter’s official name was the Mississippi Gopher Frog until 2012—right about the time bureaucrats arbitrarily decided that if Edward drastically overhauled his property—at his own expense—the frog might be able to survive in Louisiana too.
By locking down land on behalf of a frog that doesn’t live there, the feds froze an estimated $34 million in economic activity. Nor can Edward use his own land for anything else in the future—a literal death knell to his property rights.
If overreaching government agents can do this to Edward, they can designate any piece of land a critical habitat for practically any animal. No one’s land is safe.
PLF has fought for Edward and his family business, Markle Interests, LLC, since the beginning, when the feds first forced their way onto his property with their bogus designation. On October 1, 2018, Edward took his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court as party to a separate case filed by Weyerhaeuser.
In a unanimous decision, the High Court agreed that the Fish and Wildlife Service could not designate our clients’ property critical habitat unless it showed the property was in fact habitat, which it has yet to do. Further, the Court rejected the agency’s position that its decision was not reviewable by judges. The decision opens the courthouse doors to land owners like Edward Poitevent, who stand up to the federal government when it overreaches.