Rapanos v. United States

Supreme Court rules EPA “navigable waters” definition illegal

Back in 1989, Michigan developer John Rapanos was simply clearing his property to build homes and a shopping mall when he became so ensnared in a regulatory quagmire, it took the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve. John's troubles began when he pulled up some trees on his 54-acre site and filled the stump holes with sand. Federal regulators claimed an a ...

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 the subspecies' smaller numbers relati ...

Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency

Property owners challenge EPA’s navigable waters overreach

One of the longest-running legal battles in the history of the Clean Water Act doesn't involve mega-polluters dumping toxic chemicals into America's major rivers and lakes. Rather, it involves a couple who wanted to build a home on less than an acre of land in a residential neighborhood. And now, that case could have ramifications for property owne ...

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 ...

Fifth Amendment’s takings clause
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 ...

Landowners win right to challenge wetland determinations in court
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes

Landowners win right to challenge wetland determinations in court

Hawkes Company is a family-owned business in Minnesota that harvests peat moss, for landscaping. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers improperly claimed jurisdiction over the property as regulated wetlands. This put Hawkes in the untenable position of (1) abandoning all use of the land at great loss; (2) spending several hundred thousand dollars to see ...

California Sea Urchin Commission v. Combs

Separation of powers at stake in battle over agency otter rule

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked Congress for permission in the 1980s to introduce sea otters into Southern California waters, Congress agreed but required protections for lawful fishing activity. In 2012, the Service declared that they would no longer honor the fishing industry protections. On behalf of sea urchin and abalone divers, ...