Protecting Endangered Species Without Regulating Private Landowners: The Case of Endangered Plants
Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 8, 1998
Posted: 17 Nov 1999
The Federal Endangered Species Act ("ESA") forbids private landowners from altering land in ways that harm endangered animals on their land. Both conservationists and property-rights advocates have argued that this prohibition has the perverse effect of harming species because it creates incentives for landowners to keep endangered species off of their property. This paper tests that assertion empirically, using data on population trends and species location published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Because the Federal ESA does not protect plants from private landowners, but some state endangered species laws do, the status of endangered plant populations in different states was used to assess the impact that restrictions on private landowners have on population trend sin endangered plants. Overall, endangered plant populations fare worse on private land than on federal land (where they are protected). Furthermore, plants found predominantly on private land fare much better in states that forbid private landowners from harming plants than in states that do not forbid private landowners from harming plants. The data do not support the theory that restrictions on private landowners harm endangered species.
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