Supreme Court Will Decide If The Feds Can Control Private Property For An Endangered Frog That Doesn’t Live There

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a Louisiana family’s case against the federal government’s decision to designate their land as critical habitat for an endangered frog species that hasn’t lived there in decades.

Justices will decide if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service erred in designating 1,500 acres of private land in St. Tammany Parish as critical habitat for the endangered dusky gopher frog. The high court, however, declined to hear a case on the bearded seal.

A federal appeals court declined to rehear the dusky gopher frog case in February 2017, but lawyers for the Poitevent family appealed their case to the Supreme Court. The family faces a $34 million price tag to make their lands more suitable to gopher frogs.

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The Poitevent family, represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, argues the government can’t commandeer private property to the benefit of an endangered species that hasn’t lived there in decades.

Six dissenting appeals court judges agreed last year, and penned a 31-page dissent challenging the majority’s ruling. The judges wrote that the Endangered Species Act “and its implementing regulations have no ‘habitability requirement.”

“Louisiana land is ‘essential for the conservation of’ the frog even though it contains just one of three features critical to dusky gopher frog habitat,” the judges wrote.

However, courts have yet to rule against the federal government. The feds argue the Poitevent family’s land is necessary to keeping the dusky gopher frog from going extinct.

Federal officials listed the dusky gopher frog under the Endangered Species Act in 2001 in response to a petition from the environmental group the Center for Biological Diversity. Officials said Poitevent family land is among the last known dusky gopher frog habitats in Louisiana.

Officials designated 6,477 acres as critical habitat for the endangered dusky gopher frog in 2012. About 1,500 acres of that designation was on private land.

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