Landowner’s Coalition Demands Repeal of ESA

May 1, 2006

“Fed up” landowners have said “enough” to feeble efforts by Congress to “fix” the Endangered Species Act (ESA). That’s why a coalition of property rights groups, led by the American Land Foundation, Stewards of the Range, the American Policy Center, Liberty Matters, and the PFUSA Grange have now gathered more than 6,300 signatures to a letter calling for repeal of the ESA.

The letter is being delivered to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. His committee will soon consider legislation to “update” and “improve” the ESA.

The House has already passed the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act (TESRA). The Senate is considering a bill sponsored by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) called the Collaboration and Recovery of Endangered Species Act (CRESA). While the House version makes at least a weak attempt to compensate landowners when the ESA is invoked, the Senate version offers nothing for them. Both bills confirm the worst fears of landowners about how serious Congress is to actually addressing the real problems of the ESA.

The coalition opposes those legislative efforts to “fix” the ESA and, instead is calling for outright repeal of the existing law, saying there can be no fix of the worst legislation ever produced by Congress.

Since its enactment in 1973, the ESA has penalized landowners unlucky enough to have an endangered species on their land. Farmers, ranchers, tree farmers, homeowners and others who harbor endangered species or habitat on their property are subjected to severe land-use restrictions that can lead to economic ruin.

“Rather than a solution to helping endangered species, the ESA has become a very powerful tool, used by radical environmentalists who want to stop literally any use of certain lands for any purpose,” said Dan Byfield, president of the American Land Foundation of Taylor, Texas. “The entire community of Klamath Falls, Oregon was literally chocked to death as its water supply was shut off to protect a sucker fish that isn’t endangered,” said Byfield.

Yet, as Coalition leaders point out, all of the pain caused by the ESA to landowners is really for nothing as far as endangered species are concerned. “In the 33 years since the ESA has been on the books, just 34 of the nearly 1,300 U.S. species listed have made their way off of the endangered list,” said Margaret Hage Byfield, executive Director of Stewards of the Range based in Idaho. “Of this number,” she continued, “9 species are now extinct, 14 appear to have been improperly listed in the first place, and just 9 (.6% of all species listed) have recovered.” Concluded Hage, “that’s a 99% failure rate that proves the ESA is nothing more than a powerful tool for special interests groups to promote their political agenda.”

These are the reasons why the coalition is calling for outright repeal of the ESA. “There is only one valid answer to this outrageous situation,” said Tom DeWeese, president of the American Policy Center, Warrenton, VA. “Repeal the ESA and, if necessary, start over.”

To that end, the coalition has generated more than 6,300 signatures for the letter to Senator Inhofe to demand repeal of the ESA . These signatures aren’t from members of rich and powerful lobbying groups. They are from the landowners, business owners, and community leaders who are suffering from the ESA.

In part, the letter says, “Congress needs to revisit the wisdom of the Founding Fathers who believed the ownership of property must be secured from government intervention for liberty to exist. Take that security away through environmental laws like the ESA, and not only is liberty not secure, it no longer exists. You have only to look at the past 30 years since the enactment of the ESA to see what it has produced – the dramatic destruction of property rights and the failure to recover species.” “Landowners need heroes to stand for us and protect our private property. It’s time to listen to us for a change,” said Byfield, appealing to the Congress to take a stand for property owners.

“In this day when Americans have come to understand the horrors of widespread government abuse of eminent domain, such as in the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision, we should rightly fear the creation of a new ESA that could best be called Kelo 2,” concluded DeWeese.

The coalition maintains a website at where the full letter may be viewed and signed.

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.