The U.S. federal government is not known for dialing back its authority or admitting defeat in cases with its own citizens — but this rarest of events has apparently come to pass in Louisiana, where the feds have given up on a sweeping land grab that would have seen them take possession of a huge amount of private property on a particularly tenuous claim brought under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Chris Bennett, writing for AgWeb, takes a victory lap on behalf of the private property owner who prevailed — but don’t expect this to deter the feds from similar moves in future.
- The case saw Edward Poitevent, a Louisiana landowner, and Weyerhaeuser Co., a development company, locked in a legal battle with the federal Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for eight years over the latter’s effective seizure of 1,544 acres of land owned by Poitevent, by designating it a critical habitat under the ESA.
- The FWS wanted to take control of the land on the pretext that it was protecting the habitat of the endangered dusky gopher frog. This claim was rather farfetched, however, as the dusky gopher frog never lived in the type of habitat in question and, perhaps more to the point, hasn’t been seen in Louisiana since 1967.
- The U.S. Supreme Court voted 8-0 in favor of Weyerhauser and Poitevent, forcing the FWS to remove its critical habitat designation on the land on the sensible basis of the above facts, thus steering federal regulators back into the fact-based schema called reality.