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Endangered birds nesting round here? Fetch me a chainsaw!

“One of the perverse effects of the Endangered Species Act,” writes Jonathan Adler at the Volokh Conspiracy, “is that it encourages private landowners to make their land inhospitable to potentially endangered species. ” He then links to a sad but predictable tale of residents of an area hastening to make sure that a particular endangered bird finds no place to nest and rear young – at least no place on their land, since once this bird is found there, environmental regulations make the land unsaleable.

In North Carolina they persecute woodpeckers. They do not hate woodpeckers, they just do not love them enough to lose thousands of dollars for their sake. Here in Britain we persecute bats, and not because we are afraid of vampires.

9 comments to Endangered birds nesting round here? Fetch me a chainsaw!

  • A very close parallel to the way civil rights laws give employers a disincentive to hire protected minorities.

    Given two equally qualified candidates, a business would have to be crazy to hire the one that can torment it with lawsuits and investigations if he/she is fired, isn’t promoted, or simply finds the workplace not to their taste.

  • Or when muncipalities kill business with endless zoning regs that turn downtowns into ghost towns.

    Or when employers refuse to hire teenagers because of child labor laws.

  • Freeman

    Or when town centre shopping areas die because car parking has been made so restrictive.

  • A related American oddity is the agricultural tax exemption. In most states, land in agricultural use is not taxed at the same rate as other commercial property. The idea was to protect family farms from being taxed out of existence because a city grew out to the edge of the farm and dramatically raised its property value. In practice, however, much of the exception goes to developers who buy land and wait for several years to develop it or resell it. To escape taxes they put some kind of livestock on the property, usually goats. There are companies that specialize in maintaining goats on other’s properties just for the tax break. As an added bonus, the goats keep the land from reverting to a natural state which might invite protected species.

  • It is an interesting issue:

    (i) whether it is better for the Government to pass laws on what we may do or may not do, to the extent that Government wishes, though that be beyond what most people would view as essential;

    (ii) or whether it might be better if, by some means accepted and noted by a significant majority, what most people choose to do, most of the time, makes the world a better place.

    That is the difference between the good citizen and the over-zealous politician (or was that state policeman).

    Best regards

  • veryretired


    Your post is a distillation of some of the major problems in any debate about civic policy.

    In choice number one, “viewed as essential”—to what purpose?

    In choice number two, “makes the world a better place.” —for whom?

    Constantly, endlessly, relentlessly, questions about the desireability of state action are phrased in this truncated form, as if policy choices are somehow ends in themselves, devoid of context.

    I am not saying there is something wrong with you. It is a common practice, but a nefarious one.

    We live in an maelstrom of unfinished thoughts, incomplete questions, blanked out propositions, and unspoken assumptions.

    There is only one criteria, one yardstick, one measurement—does it strengthen and extend the protections in our society for individual rights?

    If the answer is yes, no other consequences are required or material. If the answer is no, there are no “good intentions” or “potential outcomes” that can serve to justify it, whatever “it” may be.

  • Eric

    I can see both sides of this issue. It sure would be a shame to lose an animal species forever as a result of development that could occur somewhere else. But I wouldn’t want to be the landowner getting stuck with the bill for everyone else’s environmental sensibilities.

    I think probably the best thing to do would be to either have the government buy the land (or pay the difference in value with restrictions on the new owner), or get rid of the restrictions all together.

    Maybe some kind of insurance? Endangered species insurance?

  • mike

    No Eric. What would be best would be for all those people who care enough about a particular endangered species to buy land with the express purpose of making it hospitable to said endangered species.

  • R C Dean

    I think probably the best thing to do would be to either have the government buy the land

    Eminent domain? Won’t find many takers for that around here.