As a child, Edward Poitevent’s family cut down Christmas trees on their lumber-rich land in Louisiana, and one day he’d like to leave the property to his own children. But federal bureaucrats jeopardized his legacy when they declared nearly 1,500 acres of his family’s private land as a critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog—a species not seen in the state for more than 50 years. Neither the Endangered Species Act nor congressional intent justifies such government-sanctioned property theft. Represented by PLF, Edward sued and on October 1st, 2018, he will join another affected property owner, Weyerhaeuser Company, at the U.S. Supreme Court to defend their constitutionally protected property rights. Oral argument held at U.S. Supreme Court on October 1, 2018.
Weyerhaeuser/Markle v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Edward Poitevent’s family has owned land in Louisiana since the end of the Civil War. The land in St. Tammany Parish is rich in lumber and is the major source of his family’s livelihood. In 1953, after nearly losing their property during the Great Depression, the Poitevent family signed a 90-year lease which has allowed the family to keep the land. And in the 1990s, Weyerhaeuser Company acquired the Poitevents’ lease for its timber operations.
Edward considers the land as much more than an investment. “It’s like a piece of family silver or a treasured piece of art. It’s a family asset and I’d love to be able to pass it on to my own children,” he says.
But in 2012, under cover of the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared more than 1,500 acres of property owned by Edward and Weyerhaeuser a critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog.
No one in the entire state of Louisiana has spotted the frog in 50 years. The only place the frog is found today is nearly 70 miles away from Edward’s property in Mississippi. In fact, the critter’s official name was the Mississippi Gopher Frog until 2012—right about the time bureaucrats arbitrarily decided that if Edward drastically overhauled his property—at his own expense—the frog might be able to survive in Louisiana too.
By locking down land on behalf of a frog that doesn’t live there, the feds froze an estimated $34 million in economic activity. Nor can Edward use his own land for anything else in the future—a literal death knell to his property rights.
If overreaching government agents can do this to Edward, they can designate any piece of land a critical habitat for practically any animal. No one’s land is safe.
Edward and his family business, Markle Interests, LLC, have fought back since the feds first forced their way onto his property with their bogus designation. Now, he will take his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court as party to a case filed by Weyerhaeuser, which owns a small portion of the land in question.
The Supreme Court heard oral argument on October 1st, 2018.