Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation objected to a U.S Fish and Wildlife Service proposal that would subjugate thousands of property owners to overzealous environmental government control under the guise of wildlife protection. The proposal would designate approximately 1,944 miles of river as critical habitat for 6 species of Central Texas Mussels, affecting waterways in more than sixty counties in Central Texas. This rule is unnecessary, since Texas already has protections in places for these species of mussels, but it is also a threat to the private property surrounding these riverways, forcing them to go to the federal government to make any changes to their private property, simply due to it being located by a river.
USFWS uses critical habitat designation to encumber property to a protected species as a way or freezing private property. The Endangered Species Act’s most powerful provision is in Section 9 – the taking provision. This makes it a felony to “take” any species that is listed as threatened or endangered. That broad definition includes “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct.”
“If adopted, this rule would negatively impact the property rights of landowners surrounding the 1,944 miles of Texas river affected by the change,” said Rob Henneke, general counsel for TPPF. “Anyone who owns land along those rivers could then be forced to seek federal approval for even the most basic modifications to their property, like building a dock.”
“Despite the sweeping and state-wide nature of its proposed rule, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has barely studied what kind of real-world impact the rule would have on Texans who own property along nearly two-thousand miles of the state’s rivers,” said Matt Miller, senior attorney at TPPF. “This proposal needs to be sent back to the drawing board so that its true cost can be fully understood.”