Jennifer Biddison

When Animal Liberation Front activists destroy private property in ill-advised attempts to save animals, local authorities drag them to jail and the media dismisses the eco-terrorists as being part of a “fringe” group. But when federal regulators destroy the value of private property while trying to save endangered species, national authorities turn their backs. Why the double-standard?

Part of the problem is that the people who decide national policy are headquartered in Washington, D.C., where large plots of private property are rare.  Those of us who live in urban or suburban areas imagine endangered species protection to be as simple as being kind to blue whales, grizzly bears and bald eagles. We don’t stop to consider the dilemmas facing people thousands of miles away from us. 

Bill Snape, Chairman of the Endangered Species Coalition, is an example of one who lives in either ignorance or denial.  “There just aren’t private landowners that I can identify where the value of their property has radically declined as a result of the Endangered Species Act,” he says.  “These landowners don’t exist.”

Try telling that to those who have had their lives and livelihoods ruined by Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations.  How about the California homeowners whose houses burned to the ground in the early 1990s after federal regulators told them they couldn’t plow fire-resistant areas around their property for fear of disturbing the Stevens kangaroo rat?  Or the families of four firefighters who died battling a forest fire in Washington state because rescuers had to wait 9 ½ hours to find out if they could draw water from a river that contained federally protected fish? Or a retired couple whose only retirement nest egg – their property – lost most of its value when federal authorities decided that the land was occupied by endangered species and thus unusable?

Snape’s testimony is part of a short video just posted on the website of the Victims of the Endangered Species Act.  Snape’s words are juxtaposed with testimonies of ranchers, farmers, and other private property owners who have suffered both personally and professionally as a result of the ESA.