ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LOUISIANA, July 12, 2017: Pacific Legal Foundation today asked the Supreme Court to review the federal government’s unprecedented designation of private property as “critical habitat” for a species that isn’t found there, and for which the property isn’t usable in any case.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set aside a large area in St. Tammany Parish for the dusky gopher frog — even though there haven’t been any dusky gopher frogs in the entire State of Louisiana since 1965. The closest place where the frog can be found is in the neighboring State of Mississippi.
PLF attorneys represent, free of charge, Markle Interests, LLC, one of the owners of the more than 1,500 acres that have been labeled as “critical habitat” for this frog that doesn’t exist there. PLF’s petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court comes after the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling en banc, declined to reverse the illegal habitat designation, over the objection of six judges who favored the landowners.
“We’re asking the Supreme Court to shut down an unprecedented abuse of the Endangered Species Act,” said PLF Senior Attorney Reed Hopper. “Regulators are seeking to impose control over privately owned property in the name of a phantom frog — a frog that is nowhere to be found on the property or, indeed, anywhere in the state. Moreover, the property is not suitable for frog habitat in its current state. Never before have federal officials attempted to rope off private property as ‘critical habitat’ where the land cannot sustain that species and the species is nowhere to be found.”
Federal officials acknowledge that the Louisiana property they have labeled as “critical habitat” does not contain key features that are necessary for the frog’s survival and provides no current conservation benefits for the species. However, they “hope” that the Markle property may someday be managed for the conservation of the species, although the property is zoned for other uses.
“If regulators get away with this land grab in Louisiana, no one’s property, anywhere, is safe,” said Hopper. “Regulators could impose restrictions on anyone’s land — merely by claiming it could someday, in some hypothetical way, be used for the recovery of some species that doesn’t currently call it home.”
“This case is a perfect example of the kind of irrational decision-making that occurs when an unaccountable bureaucracy gets involved in your life,” said Edward B. Poitevent II, one of the other property owners whose land is included in the habitat designation. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated some 1,500 acres of my family’s land as ‘critical habitat’ for a frog it admits is extinct in the entire State of Louisiana and that it knows cannot survive on our land. As a result, we can’t use or sell the land and the Service refuses to pay us for it. How fair is that?”
“Pacific Legal Foundation is committed to defending the rule of law and the primacy of common sense in environmental regulations,” said Steven Anderson, PLF’s President and CEO. “We are appealing to the Supreme Court because environmental officials cannot commandeer private property with specious rationales about animals that are nowhere to be found. Sound environmental policy requires following statutory guidelines, adhering to credible science, and respecting property rights and the needs of a healthy economic environment. All of these elements are missing in the way this property was hijacked in Louisiana for an out-of-state frog.”
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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 39 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 11 victories out of 13 cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.