Harmful prairie dog regs bore holes in the Constitution
People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners (PETPO) v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Contact: Jonathan Wood and Damien M. Schiff
Status: Petition for review and complaint filed Apr. 18, 2013. The parties are briefing on cross-motions for summary judgment, will be completed by May 8, 2014.
Does the United States Fish and Wildlife Service have authority to list the Utah prairie dog under the Endangered Species Act? Representing the Town of Paragonah, Utah, PLF attorneys argue that it does not. Because the Utah prairie dog is found only in Utah and has no commercial value, federal regulation of this species exceeds Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.
The Utah prairie dog was listed as an endangered species in 1974, pursuant to the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969. In 1984, the species was reclassified from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The Utah prairie dog causes property damage to private landowners and municipalities. In recent years, prairie dog digging has torn up land at Paragonah’s cemetery, and a skilled nursing facility has seen infestation that poses a threat to its patients. Reasonable ways to deal with these nuisances are impeded by federal regulation of the Utah prairie dog.
An attempt to address this situation legislatively seems unlikely to prevail. Therefore, Paragonah and other southern Utah residents have been forced to file suit in federal court, represented by PLF attorneys, to challenge the constitutionality of these federal prairie dog regulations.