Yesterday Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced an
Endangered Species Act (ESA) reform bill that he claims will offer
"incentives" to property owners to help recover endangered species.
However, according to The National Center for Public Policy Research,
the "Collaboration and Recovery of Endangered Species Act" (CRESA)
offers perks to large landowners and developers at the expense of small
property owners and rare species.
"Senator Crapo's contribution
to property rights is like Britain's contribution to fine cuisine - a
contribution best not made," said David Ridenour, vice president of The
National Center for Public Policy Research.
According to the
Liberty Matters News Service, just three years ago, in defense of his
position on another property rights issue, Senator Crapo wrote: "My
record in Congress includes attempts to get direct financial payments to
private property owners who suffer a loss in property valuation due to
threats from federal agencies over endangered species or other wildlife
Yet Senator Crapo's ESA bill does not offer any direct
payments to American landowners whose land values are harmed due to
endangered species regulations. Instead, CRESA establishes a system
whereby landowners are forced to sign away property rights in return for
"The House of Representatives recently passed an ESA
reform bill that promises to give property owners 100 percent direct
compensation for their lost rights. Incredibly, Senator Crapo's bill
seeks to undo this," said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and
regulatory affairs for The National Center. "For property rights
advocates, CRESA snatches defeat from the jaws of victory."
its enactment in 1973, the ESA has penalized landowners for good
stewardship. 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. In much of
rural America, the ESA has unnecessarily turned landowners and
endangered species into enemies. In order to prevent their property from
falling under the ESA's land-use controls, landowners have preemptively
"sterilized" their land to rid it of species and
"Unfortunately, Senator Crapo's ESA bill fails to fix
this disastrous law," said National Center Senior Fellow R.J. Smith. "It
would remain bad for people and bad for species. Rather than creating a
win-win situation by ending the taking of property of good stewards, he
tries to make a broken Act work by adorning it with gimmicks - much like
the futile efforts of Ptolemaic astronomy to save an Earth-centered
universe. It will fail, until Congress creates an ESA built on the use
of property rights as the basis for species recovery. Ten years ago Rep.
Crapo cosponsored the Shadegg bill, which would have worked voluntarily
with private landowners. What happened? It's time to save America's
small landowners and homeowners as well as species and their
CRESA would offer tax incentives for approved
conservation efforts, but for property owners to receive tax credits
equal to their full costs (lost fair market value plus out-of-pocket
conservation program expenses), they must enter binding agreements of
not less than 99 years. And, as this is only a tax credit, even a
99-year commitment wouldn't be enough for property owners to get back
all of their costs.
"This scheme would make even Charles Ponzi
blush," said David Ridenour. "It promises only a partial return on
investment, yet saddles a future generation with regulatory
CRESA also includes a provision that would
establish an ill-defined conservation credit trading mechanism to permit
landowners to earn credits for conservation efforts that could either be
applied toward other development projects or sold on the open
The National Center believes such a mechanism poses risks
to both species and property owners.
"Landowners who earn credits
would have a vested interest in increasing the value of their credits,"
said Knight. "The value can be increased by either more stringent
regulation or reduced species populations that require a reduction in
the number of credits available."
Ridenour adds: "In the classic
film 'It's a Wonderful Life,' George Bailey asks Mr. Potter if it is too
much to have people 'work, pay and live and die in a couple of decent
rooms and a bath' of their own. Judging from Senator Crapo's ESA bill,
he apparently thinks it is too much to ask."
Ridenour, "In 'It's a Wonderful Life' George Bailey is given the
opportunity to see what life would have been like had he never been
born. After seeing his old boss a penniless drunk, his mother destitute,
his uncle in an insane asylum, his wife a hopeless spinster, his
brother's tombstone and his quaint hometown a place of decadence, he
begs God to allow him to 'live again.' We've had a chance to see what
the ESA would be without property rights. Let species and property
rights live again."
The National Center for Public Policy
Research is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation based in
Washington, DC. Founded in 1982, it promotes innovative, market-based
solutions to today's public policy problems.
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