The U.S. Supreme Court opened its fall term on October 1, 2018, with the famous “frog case” out of Louisiana. That’s where federal regulators declared more than 1,500 acres of private land as a critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog—a species not seen in the state for more than 50 years. PLF client Edward Poitevent owns 95 percent of the land in question. He was a party in the case filed by Weyerhaeuser Company, which owns the rest of the property. Neither the Endangered Species Act nor congressional intent justifies such government-sanctioned property theft. In a unanimous decision, the High Court agreed that the Fish and Wildlife Service illegally overstepped its authority with the critical habitat designation.
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 announced November 27, 2018, the High Court agreed with Edward that the Fish and Wildlife Service illegally overstepped its authority with the critical habitat designation.