Supreme Court Ruling Upholds Property Rights

June 1, 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C.--A ruling on endangered species by the U.S. Supreme Court is seen as a victory for private property rights.

The court decided that property owners have just as much right to sue the government for "over enforcement" of the federal Endangered Species Act as environmentalists have to sue for "underenforcement."

The decision, which was applauded by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, was viewed as strengthening the hand of private property rights advocates.

Bennett v. Spear was brought by a group of Oregon ranchers and irrigation districts trying to block proposed limitations on the release of water from an irrigation project near the Oregon-California border. Irrigation districts are quasi-political districts created to provide water services to property owners. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had proposed to limit water release to protect the habitat of two endangered fish species.

The ranchers claimed that there was no evidence the fish population was declining or that a higher water level would help the fish. A U.S. District Court dismissed the lawsuit, saying the ranchers lacked legal standing to sue under the Endangered Species Act. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, which was unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court. The case now goes back to the District Court for consideration of the merits of the ranchers’ claims.

EMF Hazard Claims Dealt Recent Setbacks

Those who claim they have health problems caused by electromagnetic fields (EMFs) have received a series of setbacks in recent months, according to Electromagnetic Field Litigation Reporter.

Within the last year, high courts in three states--California, Connecticut, and Hawaii--have ruled against claims of hazards caused by EMFs from overhead power transmission lines. Late last year, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences reported that there's no conclusive evidence of a link between EMFs and health problems such as cancer. Hundreds of studies conducted over the past 17 years don't scientifically prove such a link, the report said.

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