Endangered Species Act's Hidden Costs; Respect for Private Property at Risk
Byline: Sen. David Vitter, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
At least you have to give President Obama high marks for creativity in his latest attempt to curtail freedom and individual rights. Specifically, I'm talking about Mr. Obama's assault on private property rights through the abuse of the Endangered Species Act.
I strongly support protecting endangered species. No one I know wants to see a species go anywhere near extinction. The far-left environmentalists in the Obama administration, however, have gone way beyond this by settling litigation with their allies in environmental groups behind closed doors. Through these secret settlements, they are advancing a much more radical, aggressive agenda than anything that is actually mandated by law.
This is a tactic called sue-and-settle, and it has become a central tool used to advance the radical environmental agenda. This is how it works: Far-left environmental groups sue the federal government - in this case, under the Endangered Species Act - claiming that the government is not satisfying its regulatory obligations. Then the groups and their friends in the administration draft a settlement agreement completely behind closed doors. No other stakeholder or representative of the public is provided the opportunity to shed light on how they might be impacted. The parties then get the judge to bless their agreement. That's usually easy, since he doesn't get to hear any opposing arguments and is often eager to get rid of what would otherwise be a complicated, time-consuming case.
In 2011, the Obama U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did exactly this in concert with far-left environmental groups. That settlement teed up more than 250 species and their potential critical habitat for review and eventual onerous regulation. This future regulation could prohibit many beneficial uses of tens of millions of acres of private property. All this was set in motion while no affected landowner or other stakeholder was given any opportunity for input.
It's like settling a commercial lawsuit for millions of dollars - only the party affected by the judgment is excluded from the entire process. He can't present any evidence, make any argument to the judge or react to the proposed settlement in any way. The only ones involved are the person receiving the check, his family and friends.
The results of this grossly unfair system are what you might expect. Settlements go way beyond what is actually required by law. In the case of abuse of the Endangered Species Act, vast amounts of federal, state and private land are being partly or wholly taken out of commerce. …