The Endangered Species Act is one of those very relevant and often complex (if not convoluted) double-edged swords for those people who desire to move on to their Homestead and off the proverbial grid (figuratively or literally).
On the surface, it looks like a very well-intended law, designed to ensure the longevity of environmental integrity and the continuance of a viable environment across numerous ecological systems. Who does not want to save the environment right?
The problem however, comes when even the most well-intentioned laws can be used to compromise the rights and liberties of the individual. Add in to this, the partisan political divides and the proven partisan attacks by members of the governmental machinations, and despite the benefits of the Endangered Species Act, it can also be one of the most convenient means for government to prevent you from building or living on your otherwise perfect homestead location.
The Endangered Species Act is full of very vague language that can easily be used to claim eminent domain or to grant protected status, even to those lands that are not home to populations of endangered species.
(For the sake of space limitations, large portions of the Act have been omitted but copies are readily available on US government websites)
“(5)(A) The term “critical habitat” for a threatened or endangered species means—
(ii) specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at
the time it is listed in accordance with the provisions of section 4 of this Act,
upon a determination by the Secretary that such areas are essential for the
conservation of the species.”
Author Notation: In short, this particular definitions very clearly states that even if the “endangered species” do not live directly on the homestead land, said lands can still be determined to be critical habitat … by a political appointee unaccountable for their decisions, the Secretary of Commerce. It also tends to make one wonder why environmental issues are covered by the Secretary of Commerce … or business and industry, but that is another story.
“DETERMINATION OF ENDANGERED SPECIES AND THREATENED SPECIES
SEC. 4. (a) GENERAL.—(1) The Secretary shall by regulation promulgated in accordance
with subsection (b) determine whether any species is an endangered species
or a threatened species because of any of the following factors:
(D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
Author Notation: So if a political appointee, unaccountable to the people, determines that there are not sufficient regulations … laws created by fiat, absent of any legislative action, they have the capacity to change it at will and enforce it with the “full force and effect of the law” through statutory regulation.
Upon reading the Endangered Species Act in its entirety, it may be possible for some readers to casually dismiss the conclusions as set forth herein merely as paranoia, crazy conspiracy theories or other similar off-the-wall thinking by some simple nutcase.
However, there is an adequate amount of case history and historical precedent to show where these laws have been used in some cases, to implement major fines on the civilian populations, even when such lands in question are not habitat to any endangered species, preventing people from building on their land, and in other cases, even resulting in “forfeiture” of their lands to the federal government. In many cases, these regulatory agencies have quite literally destroyed lives and allowed people to lose everything they own, up to and including their lives, all in the name of “preserving the environment”.
The following examples are only some that have been included for reference only.
The Yellowstone Fire of 1990
The Yellowstone Fire of 1990 is directly attributable to bad environmental regulation by the Endangered Species Act, that was meant only to help protect the very same environment it was ultimately responsible for destroying.
In that case, while the cutting of timber certainly was not beneficial to the environment, the restrictions from the ensuing environmental regulations were so strict that they even disallowed the removal of deadwood and other organic debris that would soon fuel a lightning strike, allowing for a fire that would ultimately consume more than three hundred thousand hectares or around seven hundred and fifty thousand acres.
Speaking of Fires and the Firemen who Fight Them
“An investigation into the July 10  ‘30-mile fire’ in central Washington state has uncovered that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) played a central role in the deaths of four young firefighters combating the blaze.
The U.S. Forest Service initially denied that environmental concerns had anything to do with the July 10 events, but then changed its story after evidence showed a largely contained fire had flared up to an uncontrolled emergency after firefighters were denied necessary water due to concerns over endangered fish living in a local river.
After the fire flared up, the four firefighters were cornered by flames in a narrow canyon and were killed by the flames before permission was finally granted to scoop water from the local river.”
The four firemen were allowed to die because of concerns of a potential for the sake of not disturbing a fish that had been listed as endangered!
According to a Policy Analyst Report from the Heartland Institute, authored by Tim Benson and H. Sterling Burnett in September of 2018;
“The 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been a costly fiasco. It has failed to protect or help revive species at risk of extinction. However, the ESA has allowed the government to go wild, stealing Americans’ property and blocking economic development.”
Despite this noted and admitted failure of the Endangered Species Act to succeed at any measurable level or to provide any real tangible benefit, there are countless environmental groups constantly introducing lawsuits, demanding that the federal government seize even more private property and even demand putting people in jail for inadvertently hitting the wrong insect with a vehicle.
(The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed this case, though it is still being appealed and reintroduced years later)
From “The Problem with the Endangered Species Act By Dr. Michael S. Coffman Ph. D. August 2, 2003”:
“Fourteen hundred farmers owning 200,000 acres in the Klamath River Basin of southern Oregon and Northern California were denied their water rights uring the summer of 2001 because of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). Nearly $200 million of life savings and hard work were wiped out instantly as the farmers were left with essentially worthless land.”
“In the fall of 2001, the U.S. Forest Service found that seven federal and state wildlife biologists planted false evidence of a rare and threatened Canadian lynx in the Wenatchee and Gifford Pinchot National Forests in the state of Washington.”
“None of the seven scientists received any disciplinary action other than a hand slapping and reassignment to another project. Retired Fish and Wildlife Service biologist James M. Beers called the false sampling amazing but not very surprising. 'I'm convinced that there is a lot of that going on for so-called higher purposes.' This higher purpose is the nature-knows-best theology of conservation.”
Michael Kelley of the Washington Post Writers Group describes the brutality of the ESA in the July 11, 2001, issue of MSNBC:
“The Endangered Species Act…has been exploited by environmental groups who have forged from it a weapon in their agenda to force humans out of lands they wish to see returned to a pre-human state. Never has this been made more nakedly, brutally clear than in the battle of Klamath Falls.”
“Congress could not pass the ESA using the Constitutional powers of Article 1, Section 8. Instead, they used five international treaties and Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. The ESA even extols the fact that it cedes sovereignty to the international community by saying its purpose is to "develop and maintain conservation programs which meet national and international standards."
In a very real way, U.S. citizens are going to prison, paying thousands of dollars in fines and, in some cases, stripped of their life savings because of international treaties.”
“Because the legal basis of the ESA rests in international law, it has trumped the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Fifth Amendment supposedly protects a landowner from a ‘taking’ by the government for public use without just compensation. While the ESA defines ‘harm’ to mean ‘harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct,’ for decades, federal agencies arbitrarily extended the definition to take private property to protect the species habitat.
The U.S. Supreme Court legitimized this convoluted interpretation on June 29, 1995 in Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter of Communities for a Great Oregon. In doing so, the Court ruled that the word “take” included altering the habitat of an endangered species — thereby allowing the government to take private land for an endangered species without paying for it.”
Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas dissented from the majority ruling; Scalia writing:
“I think it unmistakably clear that the legislation at issue here (1) forbade the hunting and killing of endangered animals, and (2) provided federal lands and federal funds for the acquisition of private lands, to preserve the habitat of endangered animals.
The Court's holding that the hunting and killing prohibition incidentally preserves habitat on private lands imposes unfairness to the point of financial ruin – not just upon the rich, but upon the simplest farmer who finds his land conscripted to national zoological use.”
Writing for the Heritage Foundation on November 18, 1998, Alexander Annett notes:
“Because of the Supreme Court ruling, the ESA empowers the federal government to regulate any land that is thought to provide ‘suitable habitat’ for an endangered species — without proof of death or injury to an identifiable animal that was caused by the landowners.
As evidenced in Klamath Falls, zealous bureaucrats can impose arbitrary and capricious habitat recovery plans on private property that instantly strips the value — often their life savings — from a landowner.”
Funny Things About Homesteaders Living Off the Grid
Most people who decide to ultimately move off the grid, also tend to be great lovers of nature. Everyone from the paranoid prepper to the staunchest Vegan seeking to live a more organic lifestyle desire to live more in harmony with nature and to do their part to protect the environment.
Given the blatant failure of so many government programs, it would seem that a far more productive and effective effort would include working with the landowners on behalf of the endangered species that may be adversely impacted by the presence of a human family on any given parcel of land.
Indeed, it is more than fair to say that homesteaders living off the grid have a far better environmental track record than the government does and virtually none of us actively seek to intentionally harm the environment.
Quite to the contrary, the idea of living off the land, making our own wares, raising our own foods and living our own lives is in large part due to a desire to live in a more harmonious compact with nature … without all the chemical additives, preservatives and addictions of modern “civilized” society.
Working with those of us that do live out in the country seems to me, would be far more beneficial to both the individual landowners, the government and to the environment and the planet as a whole.
Certain programs have been introduced to allow for just such a solution, with the California “Natural Communities Conservation Planning” Program (NCCP) being among the most well recognized to date. However, if there is a downside, such organizations are by and large only geared towards working with monied and politically influential land and property developers and not with the small homesteader who desires to live off the grid.
Perhaps there is room for a national association of people living off the grid to help us all fight our collective battles jointly?