Expropriating habitat

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This Article identifies a disturbing trend: wildlife management agencies permitting landowners to shift threatened and endangered species from their native habitat on commercially valuable land to public land, land in foreign countries, and even captive breeding facilities. Surprisingly, this occurs under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act. Certainly, there are many instances of translocation that serve goals of species preservation. But, in practice, political pressures sometimes cause agencies to shift endangered wildlife populations from higher-value lands to lands with less commercial value. Analyzing the political economy of species translocation suggests that the continuous shift of wildlife to public and foreign land appears to be an almost inevitable outcome given the social, economic, ecological, and political context of the Endangered Species Act. To illustrate this phenomenon, I present a detailed case study of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service paying Mexico to provide habitat for the endangered thick-billed parrot rather than re-establishing a population in the United States. This is not an isolated phenomenon; any one of the individual examples that I provide may seem relatively small. In aggregate, however, the long-term effects of shifting wildlife populations to make way for development or industrial activity may prove devastating. Moreover, translocations are a small part of the much broader trend of humans expropriating land from wildlife bit-by-bit, species-by-species. This reality, coupled with the current political climate, suggests that the Endangered Species Act, as applied, is insufficiently protective of wildlife habitat. I analyze the potential of an animal property rights regime - a new, habitat-preservation-focused solution to species preservation - as a new tool for stemming systemic habitat loss and related extinctions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-118
Number of pages42
JournalHarvard Environmental Law Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law


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