The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the appeal of a St. Tammany man who says the U.S. Wildlife and Fisheries is illegally blocking him from developing his property on the Mississippi border. The site has been designated a critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog.
But the property owner’s lawyer, Mark Miller, says it’s a government overreach, because the frogs don’t actually live there.
“The government went beyond where the frog lives, or where the frog could live. It really can only survive Mississippi, and only in some very particular conditions, conditions that don’t exist in Louisiana.”
Wildlife and Fisheries estimates only 100 of the frogs are still alive, and are currently confined to a small area near Pearl River.
But Center for Biological Diversity lead lawyer Collette Adkins says the frogs may not yet be living in that area, but for them to have a chance in the future, the land must be kept available.
“The agency looked across its entire historic range and found only one place left that is suitable for the frog, and that’s that land in Louisiana.”
The property owner, Edward Poitevent, owns tens of thousands of acres in the area, 1,600 of which has been designated a critical habitat.
Miller says Wildlife and Fisheries is placing an undue burden on his client’s request for development, and transforming the land into something habitable for the frog would require some substantial, and risky, behavior.
“The underbrush would have to be cleared out, quite often, because of predators. The federal government says you would need regular fires to clear off the underbrush. We don’t have that in Louisiana, and we don’t want that.”
But Adkins says that’s just not true, and only minor adjustments, like ones made across the border at a complex in Mississippi, would be needed to accommodate the frogs.
“If they decide to go forward and try to develop the land, with just a few accommodations that development could go forward. That’s what we saw happen in Mississippi.”
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments October 1st.
(Picture courtesy of USFWS.