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Critical Habitat for the Florida Panther

Sunday, January 25, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

In the eight years of the Bush Adminstration, the environmental groups learned to play the Endangered Species Act like a violin, and one of their favorite tunes is the demand for “critical habitat,” a series of maps that, once promulgated, have the effect of greatly complicating the use of private property even if the species connected with the maps is nowhere near the property so designated. Because landowners rarely if ever get word of such designations or understand them when the occur, the property rights time bomb gets planted and starts ticking with very few people aware of the rule-making or its consequences.

Landowners in Florida should know that on day one of the Obama Administration, the Conservancy of Southwestern Florida filed a “petition to label huge swaths of South Florida as critical habitat for the Florida panther. “ A successful petition will greatly impair the property rights of landowners in the region without doing anything to enhance the survival of the panther.

It is the first such petition of what will surely be four years of aggressive appeals to the Department of the Interior to diminish the property rights of landowners across the United States. This will be good for my business as an ESA and Clean Water Act lawyer, but bad –very bad– for the economic recovery.

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