The Pacific Northwest Center, established in 1992, was the first of PLF’s regional litigation centers and litigates cases emanating from Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Idaho. Contributions received from residents of the region are directed toward the budget of the Northwest Center.
In recent years, the Northwest Center has devoted significant resources to challenging the listings of west coast salmon as endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. We believe the government has based these listings on political, rather than scientific, considerations and disregards the true costs of the proposed listings in terms of land use constraints. To put this in perspective, the ESA listings of just under 30 populations of salmon and steelhead authorize federal land use regulation of 165,000 square miles, or 105 million acres, of land in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California.
Property owners in both Oregon and Washington have seen their property rights erode through the enactment of state land use laws. The goal in passing these laws was to ensure that development proceeded in an orderly and environmentally sound fashion. But the process was soon hijacked in by "smart-growth" bureaucrats and activists who figured out that planning could be used to stop all or most building on rural lands. As a result, rural landowners bear the cost of providing public benefits of “open space” without any compensation.
The Northwest Center also defends small landowners who, without PLF, would not have the means to defend themselves against overreaching government. We defended Brian and Jody Bea, a young couple who began building their dream house in Skamania County, Washington. After the Beas secured all their necessary permits and their home was nearly 80% complete, the Columbia River Gorge Commission told them it didn’t like the way the house looked and won a trial court decision ordering the home to be moved or torn down. PLF appealed their case directly to the Washington Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that once the Beas had a final land use, their rights had vested. Today, Brian and Jody and their 4 children are living in their home.