Property Rights

Going to the Prairie Dogs

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Here's another weird switch in Kansas: a struggle over nature conservation and property rights in which the environmentalists and the landowners are on the same side. Sort of. Two Logan County ranchers, contrary to the usual practice in Kansas during the last century or so, are welcoming prairie dogs to their property. They say allowing the burrowing rodents to breed and flourish (which is the main thing prairie dogs do, in addition to digging holes and competing with cattle for grass) will support a variety of other species that eat them, including eagles, hawks, foxes, and maybe even black-footed ferrets. Their neighbors complain that prairie dogs do not respect property lines, so one man's wildlife preserve is another's nuisance. They also worry that the arrival of endangered species will trigger onerous land use restrictions. The county commissioners, siding with the irate neighbors, are invokiing a 1901 law that allows the government to poison prairie dogs on recalcitrant ranchers' land and bill the owners for the expense. I have no neat solution to the tangle of conflicting property rights claims, but it gives me an excuse to post this adorable picture of ferret food. It reminds me of my one road trip across Kansas, which featured flatness interrupted only by scattered bits of prairie dog. 

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  1. Prairie Dogs carry the plague, and any number of other nasty ailments. I think it’s best to slaughter them wholesale.

  2. What pathetic pandering! At some point, somebody surely told the honorable commissioners that, in cases in which federal and state laws contradict each other, the federal law triumphs.

    I wonder how much of the taxpayers’ money they intend to expend on frivolous court cases before they accede to the law?

  3. Prairie Dogs carry the plague, and any number of other nasty ailments. I think it’s best to slaughter them wholesale.
    So do people…same response?

  4. I don’t care who you are: them things are cute.

  5. “They also worry that the arrival of endangered species will trigger onerous land use restrictions.”

    In the perverse world of endangered species law, they are exactly right to be concerned. The lesson the ESA teaches landowners is “if you see an endangered species on your land, kill it and bury body really well and if you see any habitat on your land burn it to the ground or bushhog it before anyone else notices it is there.”

  6. Yeah, sort of like laws against armed robbery teach the lesson “kill all the witnesses.”

    When, oh when, will we learn our lesson, and repeal this misguided law?

  7. “So do people…same response?”

    ‘I’ve got a little list,
    They’d none of them be missed.’

  8. Good eatin’

    The other highlight of driving across Kansas is the sunflowers. Miles and miles of them.

  9. I think this is the first time I have heard of staff here NOT automatically siding with the land owners in a dispute over property rights. How is this any different than having a junk yard on your property? If the neighbors can prove loss in a court of law, then they can sue the ranchers in question. This is no different than any other land use dispute. The neighbors should have taken proper precautions to prevent the entry of prarie dogs (a native and rather hearty species)onto thier land if it was that much of an issue.

  10. If they can’t be eaten, worn or laughed at, get rid of ’em.

  11. joe –

    Witness intimidation – unto the point of murder, if deemed necessary – is a very popular tactic among those perpetrating criminal acts (or selling drugs) in the inner cities. Police continually complain that finding cooperative witnesses in bad neighborhoods is tough work.

    As for those who want to develop a cafeteria for ferrets on land where the government had previously organized extermination of their favorite chow, maybe they ought to offer to pay their neighbors for damages done to the herds on adjoining land.

    Kevin

  12. They are cute, not just in pictures. I’ve seen them a few times, most recently on the land at the Laura Ingalls Wilder house back in 1987.

    I’m from the east coast and I’ve lived on the west. Prarie dogs are the cutest species indigenous to the U.S.A. Marmots come close, but I don’t think it’s possible to keep a pet marmot.

    A few years ago, someone started exporting prarie dogs to Japan for the pet market. Is that still going on? Seems to me “cuteness” is one of nature’s ways of preserving a species. It works for human babies.

  13. I have this crazy idea. I suspect that there is a difference between draining a marshy area or offing a rare bird and killing human beings in a robbery.

  14. I’d love to see Ed host a children’s show on Animal Planet.

  15. It is clear that the only solution is zoning.

  16. Kwix: Nah, people have redeeming qualities like being able to bathe and build theme parks. Prairie dogs, what’d they ever do for anybody? Nothing.

  17. Peter they are really cute in person as well.

    Joe,

    Rather than looking at land owners on the same level as murderers and criminals, why not amend the law and give them some incentive to have habitat and species on their land? Sometimes you inadvertantly give away what you really think about capitalism and property rights.

  18. Prairie dogs.

    aka

    Nature’s Reactive Targets.

  19. I’d love to see Ed host a children’s show on Animal Planet.

    I’d rock their world.

  20. Joe,
    Just like the story posted here a few months back about people cutting down trees to prevent an endangered species from nesting in them, This is yet another example of the law of unintended consequences. The ESA and Federal power is not always a good thing.

    I live in Alaska. We have bald eagles, about 35,000 of them. They are very sensitive to environmental changes and due to thier solitary nature are not adapted well to handling communicable disease. So, in the interest of protecting the bald eagle they should not be fed scraps of food during the winter months as this encourages large congregation, aggressive behavior and the spread of disease.

    Since the eagle is listed nationwide as a “threatened species” it falls under the control of US Fish and Wildlife Service meaning that the state of Alaska cannot make rules regarding the human interaction with eagles. The feds have not bothered themselves with this issue, and thus we have issues like this. In this instance, the federal government tied the hands of the state government to the deteriment of a species they were charged with protecting. Fortunately for the birds, the town of Homer can make rules regarding its residents.

  21. “Yeah, sort of like laws against armed robbery teach the lesson “kill all the witnesses.””

    You managed to precisely capture the absurdity of the ESA despite your intentions. The government treats people that have the good the gov’t wants (habitat capable of supporting an endangered species) punatively (by restricting their land use). If the government wanted boots for the military, it wouldn’t mandate all the factories capable of producing boots produce boots free of cost as long as the government thinks that it will continue to need them for the obvious reason that it creates incentives to preemptively avoid being capable of producing boots, in addition to concealing and destroying existing boot making equipment.

  22. Without prairie dogs, we wouldn’t know what to call Prairie Dogging:

    The act of a turd poking its top out of ones anus repeatedly
    “Dude, pull the car over I gotta shit, I’m prairie dogging here”

    – Urban Dictionary

  23. “Without prairie dogs, we wouldn’t know what to call Prairie Dogging:”

    Well, there is turtle heading.

  24. I thought Prairie Dogging was when cubicle slaves popped their heads over the walls of their cells to see if the boss is coming.

  25. I have the answer:
    Build a wall that extends underground.

  26. Prairie-dogging, according to Wordspy, is

    When the heads of office workers pop up over cubicle walls in response to a loud voice or noise.

    Does that make the office manager a black-footed ferret?

    Kevin

  27. Prairie Dogs are great animals,….. for developing your long range shooting ability. Joking aside, private property should be just that, neither the Feds nor the Ccoms should be able to come on your land and kill the animals you are raising (or allowing to live) there, period. However, “livestock” migrating into a farmer’s sunflower crop or a cattle pasture should be the responsiblity of the owner of that animal, whether “native” or “imported domestic”. If your cherished property damages a neighbor’s property, payup and/or find a way to prevent the same damage in the future.

  28. I would agree with Kwix, if the neighbors of the people raising the prairie dogs are unhappy and can demonstrate that the prairie dog habitat causes a measureable detriment to their holdings, then they can take the prairie dog breeders to court. However, the endangered species laws add another dimension. The prairie dog breeders can take precautions to try and contain the critters, but if the dogs breach those barriers even once, the damage will be done to the dog owners’ neighbors. Exterminating the trespassers will likely entail a messy and costly legal process…with no guarantee of resolution in the neighbors’ favor. The only just course of action would be to force the breeders to foot all legal bills themselves should the prairie dogs breach containment…but if the breeders (who frankly sound like idiots) are unable or unwilling to do that, then the state’s probably right to get involved right now and invoke this law. Otherwise the breeder’s whimsical idea of prairie dog rehabitation (which offers no apparent tangible benefit to anyone but the breeders) creates an economic problem for everyone else in the region.

  29. So a wild, native creature resides on someone’s land. It acts naturally, and the landowner gets billed for it?

    Does anyone else see the affront to property rights of the landowner?

    I think I’ll sue my neighbor for all the pigeon crap.

  30. I’d love to see Ed host a children’s show on Animal Planet.
    They should call it “Eaten, Worn or Laughed at”

  31. i think i’m on the same page as Ironchef. it’s not clear to me from the post (sorry, no patience to rtfa) that these people are “breeding” prairie dogs, so much as not chasing off the wild animals. thus, there’s a distinction between keeping them, in an ownership sense, and keeping them in the sense that no action is taken to evict them. and since when are people liable for harms caused by wild animals that they aren’t keeping?

  32. It’s not just a wild native creature residing on someone’s land. The rancher, Haverly, has been encouraging the growth of these prairie dog villages, which have apparently grown over into the fields of Haverly’s neighbors (who are having to pay higher bills for extermination on their own land). The county land offices verified that prairie dog villages bring down land prices because of the problems the dogs cause for cattle grazing, causing a tangible detriment to the neighbors’ holdings. In essence, Haverly is forcing his neighbors to shoulder the economic consequences of his personal efforts to reintroduce the prairie dogs, which is not a right he should have as a landowner. And that’s to say nothing of what happens if the black-footed ferret is somehow introduced to the region and one of them dies on his neighbors’ property…Haverly’s neighbors are right to be concerned about his actions. And the state government may be right for intervening.

  33. The article also indicated that Haverly has interfered with efforts to poison the prairie dogs and that the size of the village on his property has grown substantially. So, while he may not be breeding them, per se, he is allowing them to grow in number…apparently enough to affect his neighbors’ property.

  34. I’m quite frankly baffled by the thought of “reintroducing” prairie dogs to anything.

    They’re all over the freaking place. At least here in Colorado.

  35. Kevin,

    “Witness intimidation – unto the point of murder, if deemed necessary – is a very popular tactic among those perpetrating criminal acts (or selling drugs) in the inner cities. Police continually complain that finding cooperative witnesses in bad neighborhoods is tough work.”

    I know that. That’s why I drew the comparison with the ESA.

    And why, exactly, should the property owners be required to keep their land prarie-dog free? Because the government said so? Because their neighbors want it that way? If a raptor lands in my tree, and eats my neighbor’s bunny, am I to be held responsible for their loss?

  36. Haverly and the environmental groups backing him are apparently hoping that reintroducing the prairie dogs will allow endangered species (like the black-footed ferret) to survive in the region. And that would be an admirable goal if Haverly owned all of the land in the area and shouldered the full consequences of his decisions himself. But he isn’t doing that, he’s essentially forcing his neighbors to shoulder them too (through higher extermination bills and degrading land value to name a couple), and that’s not admirable, that’s just selfish and wrong. And that’s not a right that he should have as an individual property owner. He’s forcing his choices on the rest of his neighbors and it’s acting against their own interests.

  37. That’s a flawed analogy, Joe. If your neighbor’s bunny was on your land, and the bunny died, then your neighbor was at fault for not controlling his pet (the raptor eating it is irrelevant). Same as the rancher Haverly is responsible for the prairie dogs from his land intruding on his neighbors’ property and damaging its value.

  38. I’m disappointed in the weakness of the responses. So far, nobody has been able to explain why unintended consequences invalidate one type of law but not another, except to say that they like one type and not another; refering me to the unintended consequences of the law as if my argument didn’t already rely on knowing about the inintended consequences; oh, and saying that I’m a baaaaaaaaad person who believes blah blah blah blah blah.

    Sphynx manages a decent argument by refering to the longstanding doctrine that you are responsible for keeping your livestock from harming other people’s property.

    The problem is, they aren’t “livestock.” They’ve the critters that live in the area. The squirrels in my tree aren’t my livestock; nor are the earthworms under my lawn. These prarie dogs aren’t even the owners’ property, which he has responsibility over. The situation is most analogous to someone deciding not to use Chemlawn, and his neighbors suing him because they are allergic to his dandelions.

    UCrawford,

    I “encourage” the squirrels in my tree to increase by, like the property owners in question, not destroying their nests when they build them. I would also work to prevent my neighbors from putting poison on my land to kill them. I still don’t think that makes me liable if one of the squirrels digs up and eats my neighbors’ tulip bulbs.

  39. “…[T]that’s not admirable, that’s just selfish and wrong. And that’s not a right that he should have as an individual property owner. He’s forcing his choices on the rest of his neighbors and it’s acting against their own interests.”

    Repudiation of the Supremacy of the Collective- If that’s not a hate crime, I don’t know what is.

  40. What do they taste like? Chicken?

  41. UCrawford,

    I’m not responsible, even if the wild hawk that lives in my tree kills the bunny in my neighbor’s yard. It’s still his responsibility, not mine, to protect his property from natural processes that reduce its value. Even if I were to feed the hawk by leaving little bits of meat in my driveway, it’s still a wild hawk.

    “He’s forcing his choices on the rest of his neighbors and it’s acting against their own interests.” In exactly the same way that the property owners who decided to exterminate the critters have decided to force their choice on Haverly and everone else.

    One group wants the ecology to work one way. The other group wants the ecology to work another way. I don’t see why their financial interest allows Haverly’s neighbors to have a greater say into how the ecology should function, and I certainly don’t see how their claim is so superior as to give them the right to control what he does on his land.

  42. Joe,

    You can choose to believe that encouraging the proliferation of squirrels doesn’t make you liable, but if the neighbors can demonstrate that the destruction of the tulips was significant enough to merit reparation (if, for example, it were a rare breed of tulip), you’d be wrong. Same as if the squirrels in your yard decided to move out of your trees to nest and tear holes in your neighbors roof, or if you decided that maybe it’s wrong to kill a family of rats living in your house and they then expanded to your neighbors’ house and gave them all hantavirus. By allowing a pest to grow unchecked, you’ve created a hazard to the well-being of your neighbors’ interests. And that goes beyond the personal discretion of the property owner…that goes to forcing the consequences of the choices you make upon your neighbors.

  43. Joe,

    Normally I’d agree with your point about Haverly, except that the prairie dogs aren’t being restricted to his land, the neighbors have indicated quite clearly that they’re spreading to theirs, which is driving up their extermination bills and driving down their land value. It’s the same argument as to people in residential areas aren’t allowed to turn their houses into junkyards…they’re forcing their neighbors to bear the economic costs of their decisions.

    The environmental considerations don’t really even enter into it. If Haverly wants to give up ranching entirely and dedicate his entire life to saving the prairie dog, and doesn’t care about the consequences to his own land, that’s fine. It’s his right, so long as he can insure that the consequences of his actions won’t severely affect the value of his neighbors’ land. But from what the article has indicated, he can’t do that. Which makes his encouragement of the growth of the prairie dog village irresponsible and wrong.

  44. They’re the critters that live in the area. – joe

    The “naturalness” of the habitat is long gone, and was helped to that state by both private and government action. Destruction of PD cities no doubt is the cause of their predator, the ferret, almost dying out. If the P-dogs have no natural predators, what can one do but hunt them or artificially limit their habitat?

    I dunno, bringing the ferrets back might just reduce the varmints from menace to nuisance.

    The Nature Conservancey and Ducks, Unlimited pay rural landowners so that they can work their land and provide habitat. Wouldn’t it be wise to work out something like this for the ferrets?

    Kevin

  45. So many points being missed, I can not believe there are as many marksman here as the jokes imply.

    The prairie dog ‘ranchers’ are just letting a native species flourish unmolested. Unless I missed it in my quick scan of the article, they are not actively encouraging population expansion of the Prairie Dogs. They are doing so with the ferrets, but the ferrets are not a problem to cattle. This is no different than letting birds nest in trees or fish swim in a stream that crosses your property. It is not your reponsibility to control nature. If anything, introducing the ferrets is itself a control measure.

    If these were domesticated animals, like dogs, running loose attacking a neighbors cattle or sheep, or exotic animals like tigers kept as curiosities, then there would be a case.

    The neighbors that object have no case so far as I am concerned. Just like a tree that grows next to a property line, they can prune, remove or kill what crosses it over or onto their property, but can not harm what is on the other side of the line without committing a crime.

    In fact, the act of spreading poison on the P.D. ‘ranchers’ land is justification for armed defense, so far as I can see: After all, not only are they tresspassing and committing other criminal acts, but the landowner upon whose land the poison is surreptitiosly placed, may have other animals or people visiting the P.D. colony. Who knows what other animal, like a pet dog, or even a curious toddler, might eat it. The poisoner was endangering human lives as well as the P.D.’s and other animals.

    Could there be a complaint by a duck ‘rancher’ if snapping turtles came down a stream, crossed a neighbors property line and ate their ducklings?

  46. Mr. Haverfield, who is 70, and his wife, Betty, 71, are perfectly content to have neighbors and friends shoot some of the thousands of prairie dogs for sport. They just do not want them poisoned en masse.

    ******

    Mr. Haverfield suggested a compromise, a 90-foot buffer zone of poisoned land, with an electric fence. The commissioners rejected it.
    [From the article]

    What an unreasonable bastard this guy is.

  47. UCrawford,

    No, I wouldn’t be wrong. There is no – zero – zilch – nada liability attached to choosing not to stop the established migration and activity of native species from occuring.

    The examples of rats and trash aren’t applicable, because rats nesting in a human shelter, or a yard filling up with junked appliances, isn’t the natural migration and activity of the area, but a consequence of the property owner’s occupation and use of his land. If Haverly was introducing tigers to his land, and they escaped and ate his neighbors’ sheep, that would be a case of what you’re talking about. If he was burning tires and smoking out his neighbors, that would be, too.

    “except that the prairie dogs aren’t being restricted to his land, the neighbors have indicated quite clearly that they’re spreading to theirs” You mean like the leaves from my maple tree that fall onto my neighbor’s yard? The law is, if wants that to stop, he has to cut the limb that extends over his land. He has no right to cut down my tree, or take me to court to force me to cut down my tree.

  48. Kevin,

    It would be wise so long as Ducks Unlimited and the landowners who want to harbor the ferrets can insure that the ferrets don’t ever leave their property and settle on their neighbors’ land. Otherwise, the “environmentalists” (for lack of a better term) are just forcing their own choices on non-participating property owners, which isn’t a wise policy at all.

    As for the reintroduction of the ferret as a control measure, once an endangered species (like the black-footed ferret) sets up house on your property, then the landowner is subject to restrictions on land usage that endanger the animal. So the reintroduction of a non-native endangered species (the ferret) to Haverly’s property potentially harms the economic value of Haverly’s neighbors’ property by subjecting the neighbors to those environmental restrictions should the ferrets relocate off of Haverly’s land (and it could also keep the neighbors from being allowed to poison prairie dogs on their own land, to protect the ferrets from unintentional poisoning). And allowing the prairie dogs to flourish, without any predator controls, creates a potential pest problem that also affects the neighbors’ economic interests. So by allowing the prairie dogs to flourish, Haverly is unfairly affecting his neighbors’ interests.

    As for the fence, was it possibly rejected as an insufficient measure to contain the prairie dogs (since they could likely tunnel underneath it)?

  49. Kevin,

    “The “naturalness” of the habitat is long gone, and was helped to that state by both private and government action.”

    Well, if the prarie dog population can re-establish itself so robustly without Haverly doing anything at all, I don’t think that’s true.

    If everyone on my block uses Chemlawn on their yards to kill the dandelions, and there hadn’t been a dandelion there for years, could my neighbor sue me if I stopped using Chemlawn, and the dandelion tufts that blew off my property gave him allergies?

  50. UCrawford,

    If my oak tree extends over my neighbor’s property and they find this harms them for whatever reason, either the mess or risk of a branch falling on the roof, they are free to cut down the branches that exist in space across the property line at their expense. They cannot compel me to cut down the tree entirely.

  51. Joe,

    The concept of what constitutes “natural” or “unnatural” migration and habitation patterns is a lot more arbitrary than you’re apparently willing to admit. The question for Kansas is more a matter of “Are you responsible for what goes on on your property?”, and it appears in the case of Haverly that the state is leaning towards holding Haverly accountable for allowing a pest to flourish and move into his neighbors’ property, which (as a pretty strict libertarian) I’m okay with.

  52. Keith,

    Yes, but I’d also say that since the tree is growing on your property they should also be free to present you with the bill for the trimming. It’s your tree growing onto their property.

  53. UCrawford,

    You are wrong. It is your responsibility to cut the limb, at your own cost and risk. That doctrine goes back a thousand years in English Common Law.

    You might not want this to be so, but it is. You might as well insist that I put up a windbreak to keep your potted plants from blowing over.

    Or insist that I cut flowering trees that grow on my property to stop bees from flying into your yard.

  54. there is also a difference between actively harboring or allowing to reproduce – which imply some affirmative action on the part of the rancher, and inaction – which is generally not a source of liability.

    common law generally imposes no duty to act to the benefit of another, thus i cannot see how the rancher would have any duty to his neighbors in this. even in a hand-formula determination of duty.

  55. Kevin,

    “The “naturalness” of the habitat is long gone, and was helped to that state by both private and government action.”

    Well, if the prarie dog population can re-establish itself so robustly without Haverly doing anything at all, I don’t think that’s true. – joe

    joe, I live in a city. It’s full of unnatural structures, but also still has public and private parks, not to mention other private lawns and lots, providing habitat for rats, racoons, rabbits, possum, skunk, pigeons, gulls, raptors, feral cats and whitetail deer. That the prairie dogs are able to flourish in the current environment under question is not to say that it is anything close to a natural habitat. Ranchers manicure their spreads differently than urban gardeners, but those dogs and dogies aren’t living on the old open range, are they? Haverfield and Barnhardt could be proponents of returning the land to its original state, but I’m sure that if they are they have a bunch of work to do.

    UCrawford, if reintroducing the ferret as a control measure were ever contemplated, the ESA would have to be amended to allow regulatory relief to the landowners. There’d be no point to it if neighboring folks had an incentive to follow the “3S rule” when they discovered an endangered animal on their land.

    Kevin

  56. further, if the neighbors don’t want prairie dogs on their land – why don’t they just put poison on their own damned property!

    it is the neighbors imposing the artificial condition here (prairie dog-less land). it seems to me that it is the neighbors who are imposing a burden onto this rancher. landowners who want to alter their property from its natural condition can do so – but shouldn’t expect others to pay to keep it sufficiently artificial.

  57. They cannot compel me to cut down the tree entirely.

    Actually, I’m not 100% sure of that, but it reminds me of a funny story. A few years ago in Southern California, a guy had a big sycamore (or some such large tree) on his property that was basically dying or dead. He wanted to cut it down because it was in danger of falling in high winds. His loudmouth neighbor, who enjoyed the shade from the tree, went to the city and got an injunction to keep his neighbor from cutting down the tree. Cut to a couple of months later, there’s a big wind storm, and sure enough, down comes the tree…right on top of loudmouth’s garage. To his credit, loudmouth didn’t complain and paid for the damage himself.

    The other highlight of driving across Kansas is the sunflowers.

    I’m sorry but this is crazy. There are no highlights when driving through Kansas, except for the sign that says you are now leaving Kansas.

  58. “I’m disappointed in the weakness of the responses.”

    I’m disappointed people still respond to you Joe. I guess we’re both just going to have to live with our little disappointments.

  59. This guy and his prairie dogs is the equivalent of someone setting up a facility to raise termites and letting them out to destroy his neighbors houses.

    If he kept the prairie dogs on his property the neighbors would not be complaining. He is exporting the costs for his hobby onto his neighbors.

    Furthermore, if any of his neighbors work cattle on horseback prairie dog holes are a lethal hazard.

  60. I have seen, on the PERC website, some articles discussing ranching for wildlife. The premise is that ranchers may profit by selling hunting licenses to be used on the their own property, and by other means as well, depending on the laws in their state. Naturally, they create conditions under which target animals like moose, bear, deer, antelope, and others flourish. I would be hard pressed to argue that if the animals who benefitted from this habitat improvement damaged adjacent property that the rancher would be liable.

  61. For those who argue the prarie dogs must be contained, how does that compare or contrast with GM pollen escaping a corn patch and rendering all the neighbors’ corn no longer GM-free?

  62. What is it bizarro day at H&R?

    The libertarians (UCrawford, TJIT, Kevrob-sorta-)are arguing that the government is correct to take away the rights of a land owner at the behest of his neighbors due to the externalities his inaction is causing?

    Even if you support the concept that there is no action that you can take on your land that doesn’t have an impact on your neighbors (true in a sense–everything is interconnected at some level) and use that as a justification for limits on property rights (certainly reasonable in some situations) this case wouldn’t be the one you would want to use.

    Strange.

  63. That last post is unclear.

    This case would be the one you would want to use to argue FOR expansion of government in regards to property rights, but only if you wanted to take the extremem position that the land owner has virtually no rights when his actions are put in the context of their impact on the group.

  64. I think the confusion is this.

    Some libertarians seem to take the position that good for the environment = antifreedom

    Therefore, they reason, any action whose intent/consequence supports the goals of evironmentalism must be antifreedom.

    The government’s job is to protect freedom, therefore, the government should stop this guy from taking an action that supports environmental goals.

    Crazy.

  65. Ironchef gets this exactly right.

    So let’s change the context a bit for UC et al.

    Instead of inaction, let’s say this rancher decides to raise, I don’t know, PIGS.

    The pigs are fenced in, but the smell gets out.

    By your arguments, the government has some responsibility to restrict the pig farmers rights due to the impact the smell has on his neighbors.

    Am I following your arguments?

  66. FWIW.

    I think there are important differences between the PD case and the PIG case that change my position on the issues…

    PD – inaction allowing a natural process
    PIGS – overt action for profit

    I would side with landowner in PD
    I would side with neighbors in PIGS

    Cost of doing business and all…

    One man’s pest…

  67. Of course you would need to take things on a case by case basis.

    Smell = harm requires pretty serious smells.

  68. Cost of doing business and all elaborated.

    The pig farmer incurs extra costs to deal with the impact his actions have on his neighbors. He will pass these costs along to the community at large in the form of higher prices for his product. The neighbors get a benefit, but also incur a cost (more expensive ham). They do not force the PIG farmer to take the entire burden upon himself. It is a distributed cost.

  69. What do prairie dogs taste like?

  70. Leftstream:

    Thanks for the “sorta.”

    What makes this case a mess is the involvement of the government in eradicating the ferrets, either because that’s what folks wanted or as a side-effect of reducing the prairie dogs. The two maverick ranchers did take an affirmative action. They reintroduced the ferret. Now, a necessary prerequisite of bringing the ferret back was ceasing the anti-PD activity normal to Plains ranching, and given the century-old attitudes of cattlemen, county agents and even the Feds in that region, the neighbors see that as a hostile act.

    The whole thing reminds me of those nice folks who remove non-native grass lawns from their properties and let native wildflowers and grasses sprout. It may be “ecologically correct,” but that’s no comfort to the neighbor with allergies who bought his house with no idea that he’d be living nextdoor to a pollen factory. In days past, the relevant municipality would send over somebody with a mower to cut everything back if you wouldn’t do it yourself, and add the cost to your property tax bill. Now there are sometimes local codes that allow for natural landscaping.

    Kevin

  71. An alternate to Dave Killion’s idea.

    Some sort of offset trading mechanism for encouraging biodiversity. Ala Carbon Dioxide Offset Trading, but with improving biodiversity and/or nativness as the target. Ie get p[aid to improve the number of rare and/or wild native species on your land. For instance French Broom infests California; Environmentalists and friends say they value native species, let them pay the land owner to keep the Broom at bay, and as such grow native plants instead.

    It would be awkward to set up, but it help take the governmetn laws and beurocracy out the system, replacing it with an environmentally conscious market.

  72. I’d love to see Ed host a children’s show on Animal Planet.
    They should call it “Eaten, Worn or Laughed at”
    _________________________

    I’m serious.

    Cows? Eaten.
    Minks? Worn.
    Monkeys? Laughed at.

    It’s a very compact philosophy.
    Perfect for the kiddies.
    Just like libertarianism.

  73. Kevin,

    I’m not claiming that the ranchland is in a particularly natural state; just that it is natural enough that a native species can re-establish itself fairly easily, meaning the property owner doesn’t have to take any overt acts for them to come back, he just has to refrain form commiting overt acts that would eradicate them.

    He certainly committed overt acts in re-introducing the ferret, but his neighbors aren’t complaining about the ferret here.

    TJIT,

    If he had “set up facilities” for the groundhogs to come back, the case would be harder, but he doesn’t appear to have done so.

  74. What sort of American advocates the government claiming right to manage a taxpayer’s private property? If you think the government knows how a rancher should run their land, you might be better off in China. The rancher’s neighbors can poison and shoot all they want on their side of the fence, but a man’s property is his OWN.

  75. Humans are the only animal stupid enough to fall in a prairie dog hole. The rest of God’s creations gets along just fine with them. If your only complaint is that they consume too much grass you intended for your non-native european cattle, you might need to reevaluate your priorities before your reckoning.

  76. I think people here are more interested in property values than property rights. That’s the problem.

  77. Man if I’ve ever wanted to see some knee-jerk ‘anti-joe’ reactions I’d just need to look in this thread.

    Like someone above suggested, its bizzaro day at H&R:

    joe is actually making well-reasoned pro-liberty arguments while the rest of the regulars are repeating the same thing over and over in some kinda pro-regulation stupor.

    Like joe has argued over and over the rancher has not taken positive action to promote the re-establishment of the praire dog villages, he simply did not take positive action to stop it, allowing natural progression.

    To argue that he should allow the goverment to go on his property and spread poison is flat out assinine.

  78. joe, it is the re-introduced ferret that brings the hammer of the federal ESA down on the neighbors. If this were just a matter of two ranchers refusing to control prairie dogs on their land v. others who increased their anti-PD activities at their property line, it wouldn’t be such a complicated question. Then we’d be talking about the state law that demands eradication and even empowers the government to undertake it against a landowners will. That’d be the rural version of an urban “anti-blight” ordinance, hey? If these guys wanted to have a prairie dog reserve, and made arrangements with their neighbors to keep the underground warrens from encroaching on the adjacent properties, I’d say that enforcing the mandatory poisoning law was nuts.

    Kevin

  79. joe, it is the re-introduced ferret that brings the hammer of the federal ESA down on the neighbors. If this were just a matter of two ranchers refusing to control prairie dogs on their land v. others who increased their anti-PD activities at their property line, it wouldn’t be such a complicated question

    Well then maybe we should be discussing the ESA regulations then. Or are you suggesting that the two ranchers should be held liable because their actions might cause a federally mandated law to become applicable?

  80. Kevrob,

    Thanks for elaborating your position. I can now feel comfortable removing the “sorta” from your position. You have moved to the left of me on this issue.

    ;~)

  81. If he kept the Prairie dogs on his property nobody would care about what he did and this would not be an issue.

    But the prairie dogs are not staying on his property they are colonizing his neghbors property.

    Unlike other wildlife that graze and move on the prairie dogs colonize, destroy a lot native sod, and leave potentially lethal hazards for anyone who works cattle on horseback.

    As the saying goes your right to swing your fist ends at my nose. His failure to keep the prairie dogs on his property is punching his neighbors in the nose.

    A couple of corrections to some previous commentors

    No ferrets have been reintroduced

    They are prairie dogs not ground hogs

    As far as I could see the article did not make it clear whether the prairie dogs were native or reintrouduced.

  82. Joe,

    Another way of explaining why his neighbors want something done is this.

    You live in a condo and a neighbor had an infestation of rats, or termites. This neighbor does not control the rats or termites or keep them on his property. Because of this the termites or rats have colonized your condo and started destroying the framing of your condo.

    You have taken efforts to control the problem with the termites and rats in your condo but these actions are ineffective because every time you control the rats and termites on your property the rats and termites from the neighbors condo reinfest yours.

    I don’t think the most staunch property rights advocate or libertarian would say other condo owners would be out of line for demanding that their neighbor keep the termites and rats on his property.

  83. TJIT,

    “As the saying goes your right to swing your fist ends at my nose. His failure to keep the prairie dogs on his property is punching his neighbors in the nose.”

    You are confusing the prairie dogs with the rancher. How can he be responsible for the actions of wildlife. See Ironchef’s comments above.

    “destroy a lot native sod, and leave potentially lethal hazards for anyone who works cattle on horseback.”

    This is bunk.

  84. “Scientists, in fact, refer to prairie dogs as the architects of North America’s grasslands. Prairie dogs gnaw through woody shrubs such as mesquite that would otherwise takeover the grassland habitat.

    And as burrowing animals, they excavate tons of hard-baked desert soils, increasing the grounds’ fertility and improving foraging for cattle.”

    From Bruce’s link above

  85. Mainstream man,

    I assume you have some experience around prairie dogs and working cattle on horseback.

    Maybe we can compare notes because your “this is bunk” to my comments on sod destruction and work hazards indicate you must have some kind of experience on the ground. Is this true?

  86. Kevin,

    “joe, it is the re-introduced ferret that brings the hammer of the federal ESA down on the neighbors.”

    No, it is the federal government that brings down the ESA down on the neighbors.

    TJIT,

    “If he kept the Prairie dogs on his property nobody would care about what he did and this would not be an issue.” They are not his prarie dogs, and he did nothing to cause them to come onto anyone’s property. You might as well complain that I failed to stop a cold air mass from moving across my land and frosting your fields.

    He is not swinging his fist. The prarie dogs are not his fist, and he is not swinging them.

    As I’ve written, the prarie dogs recolonizing their native habitat are not the equivalent of rats or roaches moving from one house to another, because the latter are present only because of the overt acts of the owner (building a home – rats and roaches being domestic pests that require a human habitation to survive in most areas), while the former are a natural phenomenon that the owner did nothing to cause.

  87. val,

    Thanks, but I wouldn’t dismiss the entirety of the argument as mindless anti-joe reaction.

    Much of it is mindless anti-environmentalist reaction.

  88. joe: Why does disareeing with you is described as “mindless anti-joe reaction”?

    BTW, Are any posters here in possesion of good prairie dog recipes?

  89. Hey, Joe, I’m an environtmentalist. I’m also rational.

    I finally got to start a post with Hey Joe. Too cool for words.

  90. “Man if I’ve ever wanted to see some knee-jerk ‘anti-joe’ reactions I’d just need to look in this thread.”

    There’s nothing knee-jerk about my anti-joe reactions. It’s from a pretty clear history of him being a troll. A much subtler one than Dan T., but a troll nevertheless.

    People who go onto internet sites simply to annoy the regulars are not people I consider worth repsonding to. Whether they happen to be hiding behind good, bad or indifferent arguments at the moment, means very little to me.

  91. ‘Why does disareeing with you is described as “mindless anti-joe reaction”?”

    Not all of it does described is that way, J sub D. Quite a bit of this thread does fall under that heading, I’m afraid.

    Again, that’s too bad for you. Engaging the ideas of those you disagree with is a good way to grow, and helps to weed out sloppy thinking. But some people don’t have the constitution for anything more challenging than a mutual admiration society, I guess.

  92. Damn! Still no prairie dog recipes.

  93. “I assume you have some experience around prairie dogs and working cattle on horseback.”

    Yep. You assume correctly.

  94. Although it was many many years ago, I spent every summer of my youth working on my grandfather’s cattle ranch in Oklahoma. He (and most of his neighbors), like the rancher’s in the article, had no problem with the prarie dogs. They helped keep the black jack from invading pastures.

  95. MainstreamMan,

    My experience is in the western states and I’ve never heard of blackjack before. What is it a type of weed?

    I stand by my statement about prairie dogs being a lethal hazard. I was helping gather cattle a couple months ago and there had been prairie dog activity in the area. The thought of having my fast moving horse step in one of those holes gives me the heeby jeebys. That would be one quick, nasty kind of wreck.

    Cheers,

    TJIT

  96. “blackjack … What is it a type of weed?”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackjack_oak

  97. lots of smart folks in this discusion. to respond to a long ago question…yes, i have eaten prarie dog…tastes like squirrel or however you spellit. poor…lived out west…dad a rollin stone and whatnot…hence…prarie dog fo’ dinna. not so bad…then. lv. pc. rob

  98. hey, prarie dogs are bad but there is no point in killing them mercilessly..

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