Eensy weensy interstate impact

Is it constitutional for the Endangered Species Act to prohibit a property owner’s act of mistakenly stepping on one of a swarm of tiny spiders when there’s no evidence such an action has any impact on interstate commerce? [Trevor Burrus on Cato amicus brief in Fifth Circuit case of Yearwood v. Department of the Interior on listing of bone cave harvestman spider]

4 Comments

  • Why not just buy the guy’s property and hand it over to some environmental group?

    • Because that would cost the Government (taxpayer) money. Better to stiff the bill onto some hapless landowner.

      That’s the root problem with the ESA. Its punitive to anyone unlucky enough to have a listed species interact with them or their property. This dynamic also generates perverse incentives to insure your land / property is or never becomes suitable habitat for said endangered species. See southern forest owners insuring they log their property before the trees get big enough to become suitable habitat. Or shoot-shovel-shut-up.

      Of course, if we (the taxpayer) were to actually shoulder the cost burden of the ESA, we (the taxpayer) through our elected representatives and various agencies (EPA, USFS, Fish n Wildlife, etc) would negotiate and buy / lease term limited easements for habitat protection. Then, endangered species on your land might actually be an asset, instead of a massive liability.

      Of course, (generally more) liberal(s) living in the cities would be sharing in footing the bill via higher taxes and the money would be going to rural (generally more) conservative land owners. That dynamic alone insures nothing will change.

      So if there were any of these spider caves on my land, you can bet that there would accidentally be a massive bonfire built in there by vagrant vandals. And….problem solved.

      Incentives matter. Incentivize me as a landowner to protect the critter and that’s what you’ll get. Incentivize me as a landowner to want to rid my land of the critter and that’s what you’ll get. How hard of a concept is that?

      • I was thinking more of this case—obviously, these are “bad facts” for lots of reasons, e.g., the favored treatment of windmills–thus, discretion may be the better part of valor here.

    • Because he doesn’t want to sell?

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