Endangered Prairie Dogs vs Private Property Rights


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by Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Deseret News

WASHINGTON — The legal and political fallout from a late fall ruling on the Utah prairie dog is starting to gather momentum, promising a contentious fight over the extent of Endangered Species protections.

A 2012 administrative decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prohibited any harm to the animal or its habitat, even if it involved private property. That decision led to the lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners, which was presented by the foundation.

A Tuesday discussion on the decision out of U.S. District Court for Utah was hosted in part by the Pacific Legal Foundation, the nonprofit legal watchdog group that took on the federal government over the asserted “overreach” of the Endangered Species Act and, at least for this round, won.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson said the federal government cannot use the commerce clause to regulate threatened species if that species is only found in one state. The Utah prairie dog is only found in Utah. Benson said the government shouldn't be allowed to regulate it on private property.

Jonathan Wood, who argued the case for the Pacific Legal Foundation representing landowners in Iron County, said Benson's ruling is significant because it is the first time the court has imposed restrictions on the Endangered Species Act.

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Source:  Deseret News


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