Tuesday, February 28, 2006

CALL FOR PROPERTY RIGHTS IN ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT REFORM

Excerpts from a press release just in from the NCPPR:

Washington, D.C., Feb. 27 - Today, a letter signed by 85 major national and state policy organizations was delivered to Senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee. The letter warns Senators that any Endangered Species Act reform effort must include strong private property rights protections. The coalition letter was spearheaded by The National Center for Public Policy Research.

"Whatever action the Senate takes on ESA reform should reflect the national, bipartisan outcry for strong property rights protections," said David Ridenour, vice president of The National Center for Public Policy Research. "Quite simply, when the government takes your property, the least it can do is pay for it."

..."Today, private landowners live in fear of the ESA. Those who harbor endangered species on their property or merely own land suitable for such species can find themselves subject to severe land use restrictions that can be financially devastating," said Ridenour. "This creates a perverse incentive for landowners to preemptively 'sterilize' their land to keep rare species away. Such sterilizations benefit no one - least of all the species the ESA was established to protect."

"Property owners should not be punished for being good environmental stewards, yet that is exactly what the ESA does," said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and regulatory affairs for The National Center.

In order to fix the ESA's perverse incentive problem, the letter says property owners who are denied the use of their land should be given 100 percent, fair market value compensation for losses. This would bring the ESA in line with the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees such compensation ("nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation").

"Americans nationwide were outraged when, in Kelo v. City of New London, the Supreme Court ruled that government could evict property owners to financially benefit private interests," said Knight. "As terrible as eminent domain abuse is, at least the victims in eminent domain cases are compensated. Landowners who lose their property under the Endangered Species Act don't receive a dime."

Under the current ESA, landowners who apply to the Department of Interior for permission to use their property are often forced to wait years for a response - years during which they often are unable to use the land they legally own, and on which they pay taxes.

The letter suggests that establishing a simple time limit within which the Department of Interior must issue final decisions to landowners' requests could prevent this injustice.

Meaningful ESA reform faces a big hurdle in the Senate, as the chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Act is liberal Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI).

The National Center tried to schedule a meeting to discuss upcoming reform efforts with Senator Chafee's staff. However, the prospect of a meeting was immediately rebuffed by the Senator's staff after The National Center made it clear it wished to discuss the importance of protecting property rights in such a meeting.

"Allergy season is just around the corner and 'property rights' are apparently ragweed to the Chafee office," said Knight. "Unfortunately, this strangest of allergies hurts American property owners and endangered species more than it does the Senator and his staff."
A PDF copy of the letter can be obtained online at www.nationalcenter.org/ESAPropertyRights022706.pdf.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a conservative, free-market think-tank established in 1982 and located on Capitol Hill. For more information, contact Peyton Knight at (202) 543-4110, email pknight@nationalcenter.org or visit the National Center's website at www.nationalcenter.org.

Great work, and keep up the good fight, NCPPR

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