Thursday, August 18, 2005

Protected Species = Endangered Property

I dabble in real estate and look for good investment properties from time to time. Recently a property located in Virginia was brought to my attention, not because it was a good investment, but because of its inhabitants - a nest of bald eagles.

Apparently bald eagles may have the government take away all use of your property without any compensation -- not even the meagre "just compensation" the government decided is fair in the Kelo v. New London case. Had the Founding Fathers known that bald eagles had such blatant disregard for property rights, I'm sure they would have gone with Ben Franklin's suggestion that the turkey be adopted as the national bird.

Following is a handful of the regulations concerning the protection of a bald eagle's nest on your property, containing restrictions on both the primary and secondary management zones, covering all year round and during the breeding/nesting season.

"Primary Management Zone:
This is defined as the area 750 feet (229 meters) in radius around an occupied nest. The precise size of this zone should depend on site conditions and the individual eagles’ tolerance for human activity. The following activities within this zone should not occur at any time:
· land clearing, clear cutting, mining, and other habitat modification activities;
· development of residential, recreational, agricultural, commercial, or industrial structures, power lines, roads, trails, or any other construction activity;
The following activities should not occur during the breeding/nesting season (December 15 - July 15), unless the nest is determined to be unoccupied in a particular year (VDGIF usually has this information after March 31):
· maintenance of existing buildings and roads;
· use of motorized vehicles and heavy equipment;
· aircraft flyovers within 1000 vertical feet of the ground;
· human entry and activities, including recreation, such as hiking, camping, picnicking, hunting, fishing, boating, jet skiing, etc.;
· loud noise generating activities, including blasting.
· use of chemicals toxic to wildlife, such as pesticides and herbicides."[1]

Oh, so you wanted to walk through your property? Sorry, that is illegal. Since you can't build a house on it or maintain your existing home, you'll sleep on the ground? No, can't do that -- that would be camping. No picnics either. All use of your property is gone, because a bald eagle found that tree you left standing to be an attractive home.

Why do we need to protect bald eagles, or any endangered species? Proponents of environmental laws typically cite that a considerable amount of development has already taken the natural habitats of the endangered species. Yet the people who have developed their property and did not leave any trees that might be attractive homes for a bald eagle, are not held responsible for "destroying the eagle's natural habitat." Instead, those who have made the decision to preserve a small part of the environment on their own property are those whom the law targets. The unintended consequence of such regulations is that in areas with high concentrations of bald eagles, people will be sure to make their property as unattractive to a bald eagle as possible, thereby diminishing more of the bald eagle's natural habitat.

If it is truly the people's desire to preserve the habitat of bald eagles, those people should individually or collectively purchase property containing eagles' nests, instead of lobbying the government to take the property with no remuneration at all.


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