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Property Rights

Gunnison Sage-Grouse Endangered Species Act Litigation

Drawing a line on federal power under the Endangered Species Act

Colorado and two if its counties challenged the listing of the Gunnison sage-grouse as “threatened” for lack of evidence, and challenged the designation of critical habitat as overbroad. For years, the affected states, counties, and landowners partnered to conserve the species while maintaining economic viability but the federal governm ...

Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability, et al. v. U.S. Department of Interior, et al.

Flocks of California gnatcatchers need no federal protection

The federal government has expanded its reach using the Endangered Species Act to cover spurious “subspecies.” The ESA does not define “subspecies” and the Fish and Wildlife Service has offered no definition of its own. Instead, it simply announces when it has determined a “subspecies” to exist and, relying on th ...

Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency

Landowners can challenge EPA compliance orders in court

Chantell and Michael Sackett received a local permit to build a modest three-bedroom home on a half-acre lot in an existing, partially built-out residential subdivision in Priest Lake, Idaho. The home poses no threat to water quality but federal EPA regulators nonetheless declared their property to contain a wetland and demanded they stop all work ...

Otay Mesa Property, L.P. v. Department of the Interior

Fairy shrimp critical habitat designation violates the ESA

Three property owners in San Diego County own 57 acres that they planned to use for a new recycling center and landfill. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the property as critical habitat for the endangered Riverside fairy shrimp, the development plans were stymied. The owners challenged the designation because there’s no evi ...

Uintah County v. Zinke

Landowners attack unrestrained federal “wild lands” policy

In 2010, the Department of Interior issued an order known as the “Wild Lands policy” that directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve “wilderness characteristics” in federal areas not covered by other wilderness protection laws. BLM then imposes restrictive land use regulations on those areas and inserts itself ...

Brannan v. State of Texas

Defending beachfront property rights against “rolling easements”

After a 1998 tropical storm moved the vegetation line landward of Texas beachfront homes, state officials informed the beachfront homeowners that, based on its policy of considering the public beach to extend inland to the vegetation line (wherever it goes), the homes were encroachments on a public beach and subject to removal for violating the Sta ...

St. Johns River Water Management District v. Koontz

There’s no “off site” exception to Fifth Amendment’s takings clause

Coy A. Koontz sought to develop commercial land, most of which lies within a riparian habitat protection zone in Orange County, Florida. He applied for a dredge and fill permit with the St. Johns Water Management District, which  agreed to grant the permit only on the condition that he place a conservation easement over his land, and perform mitig ...

People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. Fish and Wildlife Service

Prairie dogs and property owners: Both need protection from massive federal overreach

For decades, the federal Endangered Species Act has simultaneously stifled responsible conservation of the Utah prairie dog, while barring property owners from using their own land as they wish. So PLF asked the United States Supreme Court to step in, to protect both the prairie dog and property rights of the people who share the same land. Represe ...

Beach and Bluff Conservancy v. City of Solana Beach

Property owners have a right to protect their homes

The City of Solana Beach enacted regulations to prohibit beachfront owners from building retention walls or other protective structures to safeguard their homes from erosion unless they agreed to grant public access to their property. The regulations also require homeowners to grant public access as a condition for a permit to repair damaged stairc ...

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