A federal court in Louisiana has formally ended an attempt by a federal agency essentially to take land from private owners for the benefit of an endangered frog that doesn’t even live there.
WND reported last year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in its attempt to impose a “critical habitat” designation on private land.
It was because officials claimed the land was needed for the survival of the dusky gopher frog, even though it didn’t live there. The landowners would have lost land estimated to be worth $34 million in the agency action.
The Pacific Legal Foundation defended landowner Edward Poitevent, arguing the frog hadn’t been seen on the land in more than five decades. The nearest frog was found some 70 miles away, and the habitat wasn’t even suitable for it.
Yet the agency sought to designate some 1,500 acres as protected land for the frog.
At that time, the Supreme Court returned the case to a lower court, ruling the law clearly prevents the government from setting aside a critical habitat for a species “unless it is also habitat for the species.”
The federal court in Louisiana has ruled that Poitevent and the Weyerhaeuser Co. are the winners in the case.
“Today’s settlement marks the complete capitulation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and invalidates its wrongful 2012 decision to designate the family landowners’ and Weyerhaeuser Co.’s property as critical habitat for the endangered dusky gopher frog, a species that did not even live on their property,” PLF said.
“This federal frog feud is over, and property rights and good government win. The government tried to ban development of 1,500 acres of private property at a cost of $34 million in the name of an endangered frog that does not live on the property and cannot survive there,” said Mark Miller, Pacific Legal Foundation senior attorney and lead counsel for the family landowners. “The frog has not been seen in the entire state of Louisiana since 1967. The feds may as well have labeled this Louisiana property critical habitat for a polar bear. It would have done just as much good.”
The Supreme Court asked the lower court to determine “whether the property could indeed be habitat for the frog as a matter of law within the meaning of the Endangered Species Act – even though by any traditional definition the property could not be considered habitat as the frog does not and could not live there.”
But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ultimately agreed to the district court’s consent decree, relieving the landowners from having to obtain Fish and Wildlife Service approval for any planned future use of the property.
“It’s gratifying after more than eight years to finally close the book on this relentless crusade against private property owners across the U.S.,” said Poitevent.