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Supreme Court reins in the feds’ land grab for endangered species

November 27, 2018

The federal government can’t designate land as a habitat for an endangered species on the mere prospect that the species might eventually move there, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, delivering a victory to property owners.

In a unanimous ruling the justices rejected the federal government’s attempt to designate roughly 1,500 acres in Louisiana as critical space for the dusky gopher frog.

“Only the ‘habitat’ of the endangered species is eligible for designation as critical habitat,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the opinion.

The frog hasn’t lived on the land in five decades, having shifted to neighboring counties. But the government, fearing future events might push the frog back, sought to designate the land, which would have imposed severe restrictions on what the owners could do with it.

The owners put their economic loss at $33 million, they told the court.

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