November 10, 2014

What are people saying about PLF's prairie dog win?

By Jonathan Wood Attorney

PLF’s big win last week on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners, striking down an unconstitutional federal regulation that had devastating effects on a community—all to protect the Utah prairie dog—continues to garner media attention. Last Friday, I appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss the case. That interview is available here.

The case was also covered by AP, the Salt Lake Tribune, The Blaze, and many others. The ruling has been endorsed by two U.S. Senators: Sen. Vitter of Louisiana and Sen. Hatch of Utah. Sen. Hatch said:

this decision is a direct result of the tremendous efforts of the members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners, the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Iron County Commission, and the people of Iron County. This is the first time a federal court has found that Endangered Species Act regulations limiting the taking of a listed species exceed the scope of Congress’s enumerated powers.

Professor Jonathan Adler, writing at The Washington Post‘s Volokh Conspiracy echoed that sentiment: “[t]his decision is significant if for no other reason that it is the first time that a federal court has held that the regulation of private land use [under the ESA] exceeds the scope of Congress’s enumerated powers.”

Other reports have focused on what this means for the long-suffering residents of Southwestern Utah. KSL, the local NBC affiliate, quotes me:

“Under the ruling, they are going to be able to proceed with building their dream homes, they can start their small businesses, and most importantly, the city can protect the fields where the residents’ children play, the airport and the cemetery from this rodent that has basically taken over this town,” he said “These are things that most Americans just take for granted, but for 40 years, the residents of Cedar City have not been able to do this.”

And you can hear what this means to PETPO’s members, in their own words, in a Fox 13 segment available here.

Over at Reason, Brian Seasholes explains that this decision may ultimately be good for the prairie dog, too.

[W]hile proponents of the Endangered Species Act are portraying yesterday’s court decision as a mortal threat to the Act, the opposite is true. If the federal government was prohibited from using the Act’s much-feared regulations to threaten landowners and force them to harbor species, this would compel the federal government to adopt a much friendlier and open approach to gain landowners’ trust and willing cooperation.

According to reports, Utah’s Division of Natural Resources, which is charged with protecting the state’s wildlife, has applauded the ruling, noting that it doesn’t mean that the prairie dog won’t be protected. State and local government will make conservation decisions instead of distant Washington bureaucrats.

Others have speculated whether the case is ultimately destined for the Supreme Court.

Finally, the St. George News (PETPO’s local paper) has a nice piece on the background of the organization and the costs that would have been incurred if the regulation had not been struck down.

learn more about

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

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 is asking 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. Representing a group of landowners called the People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners, PLF challenged the constitutionality of the federal prohibitions. Our initial victory in federal district court allowed the state to adopt a conservation program that benefitted both people and the prairie dog. It has relocated prairie dogs from backyards, playgrounds, and other residential areas to improved state conservation lands. However, that successful conservation program ground to a halt when the Tenth Circuit restored the federal regulation. Our petition asks the Supreme Court to restore both the state conservation program and constitutional limits on federal power.

Read more

What to read next