Center Announces Creation of ‘Property Rights First!’ Coalition Cites need to stop ‘Kelo II’

July 28, 2005

Washington, D.C.–Today, the American Policy Center joined several organizations concerned with property rights to help form “Property Rights First!,” a coalition designed to push property rights to the center of the debate over the Endangered Species Act. APC is warning that draft legislation released by Congressman Richard Pombo (R-CA) titled “The Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005” (TESRA 2005) would do more harm than good to American property owners. The Center has dubbed Pombo’s draft bill “Kelo II,” as it represents a massive sellout to landowners.

“I don’t want the worst piece of legislation since the income tax to be ‘updated and strengthened’ — I want it repealed,” said APC president Tom DeWeese. “When lawmakers refuse to stand up for what’s right, it’s our duty to stand up to lawmakers.”

Property Rights First! is a collaborative effort of the American Policy Center, the National Center for Public Policy Research, the American Land Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Stewards of the Range, and Liberty Matters. The coalition had recent success in postponing the debut of TESRA 2005, which had been expected to pass the House Resources Committee two weeks ago. The coalition vows to fight for full and complete private property rights protections with regard to the Endangered Species Act.

“If grassroots property rights advocates want something they must demand it,” said DeWeese. “It may be that in the end, you don’t get your way, but what you have to settle for is a whole lot better than if you had never tried.”

TESRA 2005 allows the federal government to take up to 50 percent of a landowner’s property before it ever has to pay the landowner a dime. “Can Americans make do with half of their property?” asked DeWeese. “Stealing 50 percent of a person’s lifeblood is theft, but Congressman Pombo wants to codify it as federal law.”

Incredibly, TESRA 2005 even “provides new authority to protect listed species from harmful invasive species.” DeWeese calls this “an outrage,” noting that radical environmentalists have sought regulatory authority over so-called invasive species for years. Such authority would lead to property rights abuses far and above what the current Endangered Species Act allows.

According to an Executive Order signed by President Bill Clinton in 1999, invasive species are broadly defined as “any species, including seeds, eggs, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that is not native to that ecosystem.” Kentucky bluegrass and English ivy, found on most lawns and golf courses, are just two examples of common invasive species that could open the door to government regulation of a person’s property.

“I guess when Congressman Pombo talks about the need to ‘strengthen’ the Endangered Species Act, he means it,” said DeWeese. “Add invasive species language, and you’ll wish you had the old ESA back.”

Considering that Republicans hold firm majorities on Capitol Hill, the current uproar against the Supreme Court’s dreadful decision in Kelo v. New London, and the overwhelmingly successful ballot initiative in Oregon to compensate victims of state land use regulations, this recent sellout on property rights is inexcusable.

DeWeese notes that the grassroots property rights community is appalled by this latest effort to strengthen the Endangered Species Act.

“Why are our so-called champions on the Hill so afraid to do what is right and start a campaign to repeal the ESA?” asks DeWeese. “It’s time to stop the ESA from destroying any more American lives.”

*The American Policy Center is a grassroots lobby located in Warrenton, Virginia. For nearly 20 years, the Center has fought for private property rights and limited government regulation.

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is President of the American Policy Center and National Grassroots Coordinator for CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow) working to help local activists organize into Freedom Pods ( He is also the author of three books, including Now Tell Me I Was Wrong, ERASE, and Sustainable: the WAR on Free Enterprise, Private Property, and Individuals.