Republicans Sacrifice Property Rights On Altar Of Endangered Species Act

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 16, 1997 — Newly introduced GOP legislation to reauthorize the U.S. Endangered Species Act is a disaster for property rights and wildlife conservation, according to Ike Sugg, Fellow in Wildlife and Land-Use Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “This bill shows that Republicans have joined the environmental establishment in caring more about saving the Endangered Species Act than they do about saving endangered species,” said Sugg.

Today, Senators Dirk Kempthorne (R-ID) and John Chafee (R-RI) introduced their long-awaited ESA bill. After months of negotiations with the Clinton Administration, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt joined Senate Democrats Max Baucus (MT) and Harry Reid (NV) in unveiling the legislation.

“The Kempthorne-Chafee-Babbitt bill is not real reform. It preserves federal land-use control over private property,” said Sugg. “The law is broken and must be replaced. The ESA hurts landowners and doesn't help species,” Sugg added.

The ESA's statutory authorization expired in September 1992, which means that Congress is supposed to reauthorize, reform, or repeal the law. The bill reauthorizes the ESA and codifies new federal regulatory controls of private property without providing for compensation. The bill solves none of the ESA's major problems, and is therefore unlikely to receive support from small landowners.

“There should be no reauthorization without compensation,” said R.J. Smith, Senior Environmental Scholar at CEI. “This bill offers nothing to compensate landowners whose property rights are violated under the ESA.”

This is a problem for landowners as well as wildlife. “The ESA punishes landowners for having endangered species on or near their property,” said Brian Seasholes, research associate in environmental studies at CEI. “This has created perverse incentives, prompting some landowners to destroy habitat they would otherwise leave alone.” The Kempthorne-Chafee-Babbitt bill will do little if anything to remedy the ESA's perverse incentives, he said.

CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group dedicated to free markets and limited government. For more information, call Emily McGee at (202) 331-1010.