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More on ESA-Induced Habitat Loss:

Back in August, I noted that the identification of red-cockaded woodpecker clusters encouraged landowners to clear potential habitat on private land preemptively so as to avoid land-use restrictions that can be triggred under the federal Endangered Species Act. Here's another story about it, noting that the city of Boiling Springs Lakes has issued 368 permits for timber cutting since February largely due to landowner fear of federal regulation. "It's ruined the beauty of our city," commented city mayor Joan Kinney.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on ESA-Induced Habitat Loss:
  2. Listing Bird Induces Cutting:
Learned Limb (www):
This topic unworthy of your comment. The Lord plainly commanded us to go forth and multiply. Clearly, He wants any species standing in the way of human domination destroyed. I see no basis for debate here. You analysis is insufficiently Godly, Sir!
9.25.2006 9:38pm
Luke 1152 (mail):
A federal law is proposed imposing the death penalty for people who kick kittens. People rush out and start kicking kittens before the law is enacted.

So the law is the problem, not the behavior it is intended to prevent?

Isn't his an argument for giving the EPA the right to IMMEDIATELY bar such actions while land use restrictions are fine tuned?
9.25.2006 9:40pm
Paddy O. (mail):
maybe they should stop issuing permits.
9.25.2006 9:50pm
Randy R. (mail):
Maybe people should realize that they have to live someplace, and that someplace should be a place worth living in. If people really need to destroy the beauty of their town, go to it. You deserve to live in a ugly desolate place.

Don't forget that Walmart will happily pave over what's left over.
9.25.2006 10:09pm
therut:
Well I would cut down every tree on my property if it keept the Feds and Environuts away. What good is private property when the Sierra Club tells you what to do via the Fed Gov via lawyers and Judges and politicians. Some citizens are just a little hard headed and really like to be left alone. Some people have land that their family homesteaded or owned way back to the founding of this country. They are not like city dwellers who move from place to place. The home and their land is one of the most important things they have ever owned. I understand this mentality cause my family still ownes,lives and works on the family farm that has been in the family since the early 1800's. There is a reason there are signs that say NO TRESSPASSING. Some people like my Dad planted acres of tress and let them grow for 30 plus years for his retirement money which he knew would be better than SS any day. Maybe some of these people feel the same way.
9.25.2006 10:55pm
Avatar (mail):
Look at it from this perspective. If you're a property owner, that property is an investment; you have significant capital tied up in it. If they discover a spotted snail on that territory, and federal regulations kick in making your property undevelopable, your investment is now stranded. Nobody in their right mind is going to buy your property, because they can't DO anything with it.

So you've got one hell of an incentive to clear-cut the property, even if you're not planning on doing anything with it that would require it to be deforested. No trees, no bird habitat, right? But if you wait for the birds to show up, it's a crime to do it, so you have to do it in advance...

The phrase is "unintended consequences". They exist.
9.25.2006 11:26pm
Oren Elrad (mail):
Avatar, we all understand that but preserving intact and biodiverse habitat for wildlife is a significant economic good that merits serious consideration. Of course, such choices with large positive externalities, even when they are the optimal overall economic choice, tend to be ignored unless the government steps in and mandates them.

On top of that, there is enormous public support (>70%) forsuch mandates and it seems profoundly undemocratic to suggest that it shouldn't end up happening.
9.25.2006 11:55pm
Oren Elrad (mail):
Grr, lost my train of thought while writing that . . .

The point is, if you were a humble government servant empowered to enact the will of the people, how would you go about protecting this here bird?

(Assume that I actually did a google search for 'public support endangered species' and the people do indeed want these species protected.)
9.26.2006 12:00am
MnZ (mail):
Oren,

It is hardly suprising that 70% of people support a law that protects endangered species and at virtually no cost to them. The problem is that it creates perverse incentives for that small percentage of people who find themselves with endangered species on their property.
9.26.2006 12:20am
Syd Henderson (mail):

Learned Limb (www):
This topic unworthy of your comment. The Lord plainly commanded us to go forth and multiply.


From a bad writing contest:

"Billy always took apples to math class because of the Lord's command to be fruitful and multiply."
9.26.2006 12:30am
Ken Arromdee:
A federal law is proposed imposing the death penalty for people who kick kittens. People rush out and start kicking kittens before the law is enacted.

So the law is the problem, not the behavior it is intended to prevent?


A more accurate analogy would be that the law imposes the death penalty for having a bruised kitten. People, not wanting to risk getting the death penalty, make sure to kill all their kittens, since if they don't have any kittens they don't have any bruised kittens.
9.26.2006 12:45am
Rich B. (mail):

The red-cockaded woodpecker was once abundant in the vast longleaf pine forests that stretched from New Jersey to Florida, but now numbers as few as 15,000.


Clearly, NOT protecting habitat has been a failing approach. The implication that not protecting the land would be better for the woodpecker appears to be false.


To stop the rash of cutting, city commissioners have proposed a one-year moratorium on lot-clearing permits.


And look! A simple solution that protects the woodpeckers better than the suggested "Not have an ESA" approach.
9.26.2006 1:08am
Nick P.:
North Carolina already has a Safe Harbor Program that protects land owners from additional ESA restrictions if their improvements and land management attract red-cockaded woodpeckers. Under the Safe Harbor Program, landowners can continue to manage and harvest the longleaf pines on their land.

So it would appear that North Carolina has already implemented a plan to alleviate the "perverse incentives," and the landowners are, at least in part, over-reacting to irrational fears.
9.26.2006 10:43am
Houston Lawyer:
Nick.

I don't believe that North Carolina law can trump the Endangered Species Act.

The fear of the landowners is real and rational and their actions are therefore reasonable. So maybe it is the law that is irrational.
9.26.2006 11:45am
Nick P.:
Houston Lawyer,

Did you follow the link? The NC program was authorized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under the federal Endangered Species Act. Unless something has changed dramatically, the State program doesn't need to "trump" the ESA. Since F&W is on record (in the linked newspaper article) as saying that the presence of woodpeckers does not preclude building, and since the safe harbor program is designed to allow continued harvesting of the timber, what evidence do you have that landowners' fears are rational or their actions reasonable? I would bet that the long-term economic viability of a pine plantation would be better protected by enrolling in the safe harbor program than by quickly clearcutting.

There is another safe harbor program covering the sandhills area that is over 10 years old and is a threeway agreement between the state, US F&W, and the army. The sandhills safe harbor program resulted in rapid recovery of the red-cockaded woodpeckers around Fort Bragg.
9.26.2006 12:22pm
Houston Lawyer:
Nick,

After your response, I read the link. So you can invite the government in and then agree to do what they say is OK. I know rural types, having grown up with them. They are not predisposed to agree in advance to limit their rights to their land. This may work with large corporate landowners, but hardly with individuals.
9.26.2006 2:10pm
Nick P.:
OK, but the issue was whether the landowners were being rational, not whether they were being ornery. Most of the things the government would tell them to do appear to be things that they would do anyway, if they are managing a stand of longleaf pine. I agree that if someone wants to build a Walmart of block of condos, clear cutting is probably less complicated than dealing with a safe harbor agreement. But commenters upthread have characterized the landowners as good stewards of the land who just want to protect their family inheritance. For those people, a clear-cutting panic is likely to be more harmful, if it results in stricter regulations or degrades the long-term productivity of their land.
9.26.2006 3:00pm
ray_g:
Oren: "...but preserving intact and biodiverse habitat for wildlife is a significant economic good that merits serious consideration."

First, I hear this asserted a lot, but I have seen no proof offered.

Second, even if true, who realizes this "significant economic good"? Not the land owners in most cases, or they would welcome the actions taken under the ESA. If the public in general, then then the public, via their government, should reimburse the land owner if their use of the land is restricted. But that doesn't seem to happen a lot either.

We have a saying in the western part of the country - if you discover an endangered animal on your land, "shoot, shovel and shut up." That is the kind of perverse incentive that the ESA leads to.
9.26.2006 3:18pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
If the public in general, then then the public, via their government, should reimburse the land owner if their use of the land is restricted. But that doesn't seem to happen a lot either.

You know, I am amazed how much people, especially those in the western part of the country, bitch about how government actions diminish the value of their land but never ever mention all the government programs that have increased the value of their land or have led to giveaways of government resources. Let's start with the railroads, then taming the rivers out west, all the irrigation projects, all the roads through the middle of nowhere, rural electrification and the hyroelectric project, the giveaway of minerals, timber and grazing rights on federal lands, not to mention the very land itself. On top of all that, the literal blood of the U.S. military to push the native peoples off the land and force them on reservations.

Of course if the government ever presented a bill to westerners for all the largesse heaped by the government for the last hundred fifty years or made them pay fair market value for their water, roads or electricity in some small town in the Arizona desert or the San Joaquin Valley, they would scream bloody murder.
9.26.2006 3:37pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
That is the kind of perverse incentive that the ESA leads to.

I'm more concerned about the kind of the perverse incentives that leads us to grow rice in California and cotton in Arizona.
9.26.2006 3:40pm
TruthInAdvertising:
"We have a saying in the western part of the country - if you discover an endangered animal on your land, "shoot, shovel and shut up." That is the kind of perverse incentive that the ESA leads to."

But how often does that really happen compared to how many species would be long-gone without the ESA? People who care so little for their property that they would clear-cut it as has happened in this situation aren't going to do anything to protect habitat ESA or no ESA. So if the trade-off is to protect most habitat at the expense of a small amount compared to protecting none, I'll take the small loss.
9.27.2006 12:40pm