February 26, 2013

Gopher frog back in the news!

By M. Reed Hopper Senior Attorney

As noted here, we filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier in the month challenging the agency’s over board designation of “critical habitat” for the dusky gopher frog.  Among other things, the Service included a large area of private land in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, that the Service admits is unsuitable for the frog’s habitat.  PLF represents Markle Interests, LLC, which holds a minority interest in the land.  Today, the majority landowners joined our suit by filing a complaint of their own.

In part, the related press release states:

“Attorneys for three landowners in St. Tammany Parish filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for illegally designating 1,544 acres of private land as ‘critical habitat’ for the dusky gopher frog.

“The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on behalf of P & F Lumber Co. (2000), LLC, St. Tammany Land Co., LLC, and PF Monroe Properties, LLC. It follows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “critical habitat” designation which was issued in June, 2012. As the lawsuit notes, the designation included 1,544 acres of privately-owned property that is neither occupied, nor usable, by the frog, as it contains none of the frog’s habitat elements.

“Edward B. Poitevent, II, the manager of P & F Lumber Co. and a representative of the other owners, said this about the critical habitat designation: ‘While this case is about an ill-advised land grab by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in one Louisiana parish, it’s also about how property rights are being jeopardized by governmental intrusion from coast to coast. Until now, federal officials have never attempted to do what they did here — set aside private property as the critical habitat for a species knowing that the land is clearly unsuitable for the species and that the species is gone from the land.'”

Echoing the concerns of PLF, Mr. Poitevent continued:

“If this rule stands, any land anywhere in the U.S. can have restrictions imposed merely by federal bureaucrats claiming the land may someday be used for species recovery.”

The full press release can be read here.  The complaint can be read here.

We expect another party to join our suit in the near future.  Weyerhaeuser filed it’s 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue on December 21, 2012.

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Weyerhaeuser/Markle v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

As a child, Edward Poitevent’s family cut down Christmas trees on their lumber-rich land in Louisiana, and one day he’d like to leave the property to his own children. But federal bureaucrats jeopardized his legacy when they declared nearly 1,500 acres of his family’s private land as a critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog—a species not seen in the state for more than 50 years. Neither the Endangered Species Act nor congressional intent justifies such government-sanctioned property theft. Represented by PLF, Edward sued and on October 1st, 2018, he will join another affected property owner, Weyerhaeuser Company, at the U.S. Supreme Court to defend their constitutionally protected property rights. Oral argument held at U.S. Supreme Court on October 1, 2018.

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