“…the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana approved a consent decree last week. Per the agreement, FWS will no longer protect the 1,500 acres of contested, private land as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog. Other areas will still be protected.”
A long-running legal battle over Louisiana’s dusky gopher frog ended quietly in a court settlement late last week.
After scientists identified a plot of private land in Louisiana as containing the ideal ephemeral ponds for the frog, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) designated it as critical habitat in 2012 even though the frog hadn’t been seen in the area in over 5 years. The landowners — timber giant Weyerhaeuser Co. and local individuals — sued the Obama administration over the protections, which they considered an overreach.
The Supreme Court heard the case in October of 2018 and issued a narrow ruling less than two months later, sending the case back to lower courts for them to consider the meaning of “habitat” in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to gauge whether FWS’s inclusion of the Louisiana land was appropriate.
Rather than providing clarification, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana approved a consent decree last week. Per the agreement, FWS will no longer protect the 1,500 acres of contested, private land as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog. Other areas will still be protected.
Some cheered the decision as a win for property rights and evidence of ESA’s incremental modernization. Louisiana landowner and attorney Edward Poitevent, represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation in the case, praised the resolution of the dispute. “It’s gratifying after more than eight years to finally close the book on this relentless crusade against private property owners across the U.S.,” he said in a statement to E&E News (sub req’d). “Once I was told that my family’s land had been declared a habitat for a frog that disappeared from the land more than 50 years ago, I knew that justice would ultimately prevail.”
See the Consent Decree on Scribd
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