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WASHINGTON, DC — The United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the owners of about 1,500 acres in the Pearl River, LA area who were battling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
At the center of the debate is the dusky gopher frog, an endangered species that is currently known to only live around a single pond in southern Mississippi. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, only about 100 of the frogs remain in existence. But the property in Saint Tammany Parish could be a place where the endangered frogs live, according to the service, so it designated the land as a “critical habitat” of the species.
The land owners argued that the land is not an ideal place for the frog to live and, in fact, none live there. They hoped to harvest the timber on the property, but the “critical habitat” designation blocked it. So they took the Fish and Wildlife Service to court. The case eventually landed in the United States Supreme Court.
In October, both sides argued their cases in front of the justices. Today, November 27, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the property owners.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the court’s opinion says, first, that the land could not be a “critical habitat” if it’s not even a habitat for the frogs. Also, court documents show that the land owners could lose as much as $33 million if they’re unable to develop their property.
One of those property owners, Edward Poitevent, released a statement saying in part, “We won a great victory today for our fellow landowners, the citizens of St. Tammany Parish and the people of the United States. We also won a victory for common sense and, importantly, true and balanced environmental protection.”