September 12, 2014

Recap of People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners' hearing

By Jonathan Wood Attorney

Yesterday, a federal court in Salt Lake City held the hearing on PETPO’s request for a ruling on their claim that regulations protecting the Utah prairie dog exceed the federal government’s constitutional authority. The judge had tough questions for both sides. As reported by the AP, no deadline has been set for the court to issue a ruling.

As readers will recall, PETPO’s members are the residents, property owners, and municipal government of a city that has been overrun by 40,000 rodents. They can’t address this problem because Washington bureaucrats won’t listen to them. This is precisely the type of local issue that the Constitution entrusts to state and local governments.

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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 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. 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 asked to restore both the state conservation program and constitutional limits on federal power, which the Supreme Court denied.

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