Sugg Denounces Disinformation On ESA Reform

Washington, DC, March 4, 1998 — Today a prominent environmental expert denounced Republican Senators Dirk Kempthorne (ID) and John Chafee (RI) for waging a “disinformation campaign” to promote their Endangered Species Act (ESA) reauthorization bill.

“The idea that the Kempthorne-Chafee-Babbitt bill protects property rights is laughable,” said Ike Sugg, CEI's Fellow in Wildlife and Land-Use Policy. Yet in a desperate attempt to hoodwink people into believing their bill is actually good for private landowners, staffers for Senators Kempthorne and Chafee have drafted and circulated a one-page fact sheet proclaiming that their bill is “A Property Rights Bill of Rights.”

“S. 1180 is a property rights bill of wrongs,” countered Sugg. “This bill retains each and every one of the current law's regulations of private property and then adds new regulatory powers that have never been authorized before by the ESA or any other federal law.” Sugg continued: “If S. 1180 is enacted, a Republican Congress will have passed the first and only federal zoning law in the nation’s history. No Senator who supports this bill can claim to be a defender of property rights.”

Last year, Senators Kempthorne and Chafee introduced S. 1180, the “Endangered Species Recovery Act,” to reauthorize the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with the support of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. Property rights groups have called for “no reauthorization without compensation.”

S. 1180 is opposed by the Grassroots ESA Coalition, the Forest Landowners Association, the California Farm Bureau, the Washington State Farm Bureau, the Texas Wildlife Association, the Florida Farm Bureau, Frontiers of Freedom, and numerous other property rights organizations across the country.



  1. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says “nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation”; S.1180 provides no compensation for regulatory takings, just or otherwise.
  2. S.1180 will prevent private landowners who own endangered species habitat from using their own land without government permission.
  3. S.1180 authorizes the federal government to impose regional and state-wide HCPs, which are nothing more than vast centralized zoning schemes that operate as legalized extortion rackets. HCPs force landowners to pay the government for permission to use their own land, in the form of land, money, or both.
  4. S.1180 allows the Secretary to use habitat conservation plans (HCPs) in lieu of “recovery plans,” thus transposing the federal duty to “recover” endangered species onto private landowners and regulated communities.
  5. S.1180 does not change the Fish & Wildlife Service's (FWS) regulatory definition of “harm,” which means that “modifying” or “disturbing” habitat that is merely “suitable” for threatened or endangered species will remain illegal under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
  6. S.1180 will lock up private land even where no endangered species are present, because FWS's definition of “suitable” habitat includes “all lands that harbor or could support” threatened or endangered species.
  7. If S.1180 becomes law, the GOP-controlled Congress will have enacted an explicit federal land-use planning law for the first time in our nation's history.
  8. S.1180 authorizes the Interior Secretary to “withhold or limit the availability of data requested” under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The FOIA exemption will put landowners and regulated communities at a severe disadvantage, in effect preventing them from challenging the regulations foisted upon them.
  9. The FOIA exemption will limit, if not preclude, public scrutiny of the scientific data at issue in ESA disputes. S. 1180 requires the Secretary to base his regulatory decisions on the “best scientific” information, and give greater weight to “data that is empirical, field-tested or peer-reviewed.” Yet S. 1180's FOIA exemption allows the Secretary to conceal that data from the affected public, and in effect tell the ESA's victims that they will just have to trust those who the Secretary hand picked to “peer-review” the data.
  10. S.1180 is endorsed by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.

CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan research and advocacy institute dedicated to the principles of free markets and limited government. For more information, contact Emily McGee at 202-331-1010.