Environmental Activists Target Small Property Owners While Calling the Fifth Amendment a “New Entitlement”

Washington, D.C. – The environmental community is in an uproar this week over a proposed measure that would reform the Endangered Species Act by including within it modest property rights protections for small landowners.

The “Threatened and Endangered Species Reform Act” (TESRA) is being debated now and is expected to face a vote today in the House of Representatives.

If green lobbyists and their congressional allies get their way, American property owners will continue to have their rights trampled by the Endangered Species Act.

“In light of the enormous outcry over the dreadful Kelo v. New London ruling, it’s hard to believe that anyone would so vehemently oppose protecting the property rights of American landowners,” said Peyton Knight, Director of the John P. McGovern MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs of the National Center for Public Policy Research.  “Indifference to the suffering of small property owners would be bad enough, but actively seeking to harm them is beyond the pale.”

Knight refers to the onslaught of anti-property rights rhetoric that has poured out of the environmental community this week as a result of the proposal that landowners should receive compensation when the government takes their property under the Endangered Species Act.

Under current law, the ESA takes private property without paying the owner a dime. 

One provision in TESRA would help resolve this problem by providing fair compensation to landowners who lose the use of their property as a result of the ESA.  Environmentalists have made gutting this protection a top priority.

A “Dear Colleague” letter being circulated by Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and John Conyers (D-MI) vilifies the compensation provision as a “sweeping new entitlement program.”

“The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution mandates that the federal government pay just compensation to American landowners when the government takes their property, so in that sense, yes, constitutional rights are a ‘sweeping entitlement,'” notes National Center Vice President David Ridenour.  “As for the ‘new’ part, I suppose that depends on your definition of the word ‘new.’  My personal definition happens to exclude anything over 200 years old.”

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife are also decrying the notion of compensating small landowners when government takes their property.  The Endangered Species Act has been especially devastating to small landowners, farmers, and ranchers, as many cannot survive financially without the use of their property. 

The current ESA has failed to recover over 99 percent of the species it lists as threatened or endangered.  Many attribute this failure to the fact that the Act punishes landowners that harbor endangered species and their habitat on their property.

“The true colors of elitists within the environmental community are shining through,” said Ridenour.  “They would rather destroy small property owners than save species.”

The National Center notes that without the crucial provisions within TESRA that provide protection for private property owners, both Americans and species will continue to suffer.

“Future generations of Americans should be secure in the right to their homes and their property,” said Knight.  “Green ideologues are promoting the extinction of this essential right, and with it, the extinction of countless endangered species.”

For more information, contact Ryan Balis or David Almasi at (202) 507-6398.

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.