Property Rights Advocates Brace for Another Betrayal; Like Kelo Decision, ESA Reform May Place Special Interests Above Property Rights

Still reeling from the Supreme Court decision Kelo v. City of New London, property rights advocates are bracing themselves for another betrayal of private property rights – this time from the GOP-controlled Congress – according to The National Center for Public Policy Research.

In its June 23rd decision, the Court ruled as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor noted in her dissenting opinion that, “Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party… The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations…”

Business interests may again benefit at the expense of small property owners through Endangered Species Act (ESA) reform, if leaked draft language obtained by The National Center from a journalist is any indication.

One of the purported provisions calls for compensation when ESA regulations diminish the value of a person’s property – but only if it is devalued by at least 50 percent.

“There are a lot of folks who have a problem with letting government take 49.9 percent of their property – a civil right – before anybody cares,” said David Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research. “Those with large landholdings may be able to afford this, but the little guy just can’t. If you’re a small property owner, I don’t know how you can look at this as anything but a betrayal.”

It is doubtful that even this modest level of compensation would end up in a final bill. Even if it does, compensation may still be out of reach for many property owners – including those whose property diminishes in value by more than half — because they simply can’t afford the costs of all the bureaucratic hoops they must jump through in order to file a successful claim.

Another purported provision would vastly expand the scope of the ESA to regulate so-called “invasive species.” If true, this would represent a major assault on private property rights.

Invasive species are species that have expanded beyond their normal distribution. Under this definition, almost anything could qualify for regulation. Tall fescue, for example, a grass commonly used by homeowners for their lawns, could qualify.

Any regulation of invasive species – never before regulated under the Endangered Species Act – would be a step toward the government telling Americans what they can use for their lawns, what flowers they can have in their flowerbeds and what vegetables they can plant in their gardens.

R.J. Smith, a noted conservation expert, says this will extend the reach of the ESA to draconian lengths, giving almost unlimited power to regulate land, since almost all private and public land in America contains non-native species.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, businesses frequently advocate more regulation, rather than less. Sometimes they do so to gain advantage over their competitors. Sometimes they do so to eliminate uncertainty: If they have clearly defined regulations for which they can calculate costs, they can simply pass on those costs to their customers.

“It’s clear why corporate special interests like this provision. It permits them to better calculate their costs of doing business. And once they do so, they can simply build these costs into the price of their products,” said David Ridenour. “Those of modest means would be the biggest losers as they have to eat the entire costs themselves.”

For more information, contact Ryan Balis at (202) 507-6398 or [email protected], or visit the National Center’s website at The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-profit 501(c)(3) communications and research foundation dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.