Endangered Species Act Does More Harm Than Good

Land-Use Controls Punishes Landowners and Animals Alike, Says NCPA Study


DALLAS (Sept. 25, 2007) - The Endangered Species Act, which was created to help protect species in danger of extinction, put the very species it is supposed to protect at risk, according to a new study by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). The Act severely penalized landowners, and as a result, many fearful property owners have taken action to make their land inhospitable to endangered species.

"The Endangered Species Act has wreaked havoc on wildlife and landowners," said NCPA Adjunct Scholar Brian Seasholes, who authored the study. "The ESA punishes landowners for harboring endangered species, and the tragic result has been a scorched earth policy towards the very species the Act is supposed to protect.??

According to Seasholes, the greatest problem with the Act is its land-use control provisions. These provisions penalize public and private landowners by:

  • Prohibiting, or tightly regulating, any activity considered to be a danger to the species, such as farming, lumbering, construction, human habitation or even visiting the land.
  • Providing no compensation to the land owner for the loss of land value, loss of income or lost use of land.
  • Subjecting millions of acres to land use regulations for a single protected species.

"If one had deliberately written legislation to harm endangered species, it would be almost impossible to top the ESA," said Seasholes. "The only way to reverse this is to remove the penalties.??

Seasholes notes there are two examples that point the way toward an Endangered Species Act that would better protect species:

  • The U.S. has a long and proud tradition of private wildlife conservation that has saved such species as the plains bison.
  • Much of the rest of the world, led by a number of countries in Southern Africa, have turned away from the punitive approach to wildlife conservation because they have realized that punishing people for harboring wildlife is the surest way to ensure that wildlife declines.

"Most of the world has learned what the Endangered Species Act's supporters refuse to acknowledge," said Seasholes. "Effective wildlife conservation depends first on not punishing the people who bear the costs of harboring wildlife. When the ESA's penalties are removed, then a wide range of incentives can be employed and the dormant goodwill and creativity of America's landowners will flourish."