State of California v. Bernhardt

Motion to intervene filed to defend protections for property owners

Cases > Property Rights > State of California v. Bernhardt
Case Status: Active: Motion to intervene filed to defend protections for property owners

In 2019, the Department of Interior changed the way that it applies the Endangered Species Act by rescinding an illegal rule. The changes offered additional protections for property owners—like Ken Klemm, who runs a 4,000-acre ranch in Kansas. The changes also incentivized property owners to assist in the recovery of species by loosening restrictions on the ways that they can productively use their property. Almost immediately, 17 states and environmental groups sued to overturn the changes. PLF attorneys represent Klemm, his company Beaver Creek Buffalo Co., the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, and PLF in their fight to maintain these protections for property owners.

For the last two decades, Ken Klemm has worked to restore his 4,000-acre bison ranch with the hope that native plants and animals would thrive on the property.

But regulations effectively penalized his efforts instead of rewarding them. That’s because the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service ignored Congress’s design for the Endangered Species Act. For decades, the agency treated species with more remote risks of extinction the same as species on the brink of extinction. By extending ESA regulations far beyond Congress’s original intent, Interior put significant restrictions on property owners, limiting the ways that they could productively use their land.

In 2019, the Department of Interior announced that it would restore the Endangered Species Act’s two-step system for protecting species. Instead of punishing Klemm for aiding in the recovery of the lesser prairie chicken, the new policies will ease restrictions on Klemm’s land as the bird’s outlook improves. Because of that, the policy change was welcome news for property owners like Ken.

But as soon as Interior finalized its changes, 17 states and environmental groups sued to overturn the changes. If the reforms are rolled back, Klemm and other property owners will once again be penalized for helping in the recovery of threatened species.

PLF attorneys represent Ken Klemm, Beaver Creek Buffalo Co., the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, and PLF in their fight to maintain protections for property owners nationwide.

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What’s at stake?

  • The ESA’s recently restored two-step protections for species better protects property rights and creates incentives for species conservation.

Case Timeline

State of California v. Bernhardt - Motion to Intervene

December 17, 2019 Download

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