Environmental Law

Wildlife as Property Owners Webinar

An examination of how reconceiving animal rights might aid wildlife conservation


On Monday afternoon, I will be moderating a webinar on Wildlife as Property Owners: A New Conception of Animal Rights by ASU law professor Karen Bradshaw. The webinar will focus on Prof. Bradshaw's book of that title and feature commentary by Professor Holly Doremus of the University of California at Berkeley.  The webinar is sponsored by the Coleman P. Burke Center for Environmental Law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Here's a description of the event:

Humankind coexists with every other living thing. People drink the same  water, breathe the same air, and share the same land as other animals.  Yet, property law reflects a general assumption that only people can own  land. The effects of this presumption are disastrous for wildlife and  humans alike.  The alarm  bells ringing about biodiversity loss are growing louder, and the  possibility of mass extinction is real. Anthropocentric property is a  key driver of biodiversity loss, a silent killer of species worldwide.  But as law and sustainability scholar Karen Bradshaw shows, if excluding  animals from a legal right to own land is causing their destruction,  extending the legal right to own property to wildlife may prove its  salvation. Wildlife as Property Owners advocates for folding  animals into our existing system of property law, giving them the  opportunity to own land just as humans do—to the betterment of all.

Registration and CLE information is here.

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  1. Here I thought it was going to be about the law of turning wildlife into actual property, which I consider much more reasonable.

    1. Same expectation and disappointment.

    2. That’s the next webinar: “If people can own animals, why can’t animals own people?”

  2. “giving them the  opportunity to own land just as humans do”

    I wonder how property taxes work? How do you resolve inter-species differences, i.e. deer might prefer the area be logged, while squirrels don’t? If the deer own a particular property, can they exclude wolves? How do you ask the animals what their preferences are?

    Somehow this seems like some particular group of humans wanting to manage the land according to their personal preferences.

    1. C. S. Lewis argued that what we call human control over nature is really just the control of some people by other people, with nature as the instrument.

      Here we see him proven right via the attempt of some people to control other people, with nature as the instrument and the law as an intermediary.

      1. It’s a form of denial of property rights to people, which has only one meaning and goal: those who don’t own it want to own it.

        [Some stream of words] and now it’s mine! No different from a dictator.

        1. Indeed: “No, you can’t own that.” is the socialist’s way of saying, “No, *I* own that.”

          Ownership is control, and I guarantee the animals won’t be in control.

    2. I’ve wondered the same about animal rights, the kind that make eating meat a crime. Should we charge wolves with murder and torture? Or is inter-species mayhem natural (except if humans are involved) and it is only animals killing within the same species which is criminal, as when new alpha chimps and lions kill younguns to remove all trace of the previous alpha male.

      1. There’s a hierarchy of nobility in eating animals. The most acceptable is wildlife eating wildlife as a part of nature. The next is subsistence farming of old school tribes. Then bow hunters. Then gun hunters. Then farming. Then factory farming.

        Of course, the more noble, the more terror and pain for the animal in its death.

    3. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

      —– Genesis 1:26

      1. You’re rely on the human God.

        I’m sure the animal God said something else.

        1. As Trump said yesterday, this is a Judeo-Christian nation.

          1. He proabably said he won the election, too.

        2. The pig is taught
          by sermon and epistles
          that the God of Swine
          has a snout and bristles.

      2. God also said not to eat lobster, and that your daughter’s rapist should be rewarded with a wife, so it’s not like he was exactly on-the-ball with his pronouncements.

    4. I wonder how you serve process on a deer. And how would a deer serve me? In what language would the hearings be conducted?

      1. Ummm… “click-bang” comes to mind….

      2. “And how would a deer serve me?”

        On a silver platter with a honey glaze and raspberry sauce. 🙂

      3. I’ve processed deer. You need a sharp knife, some skill, and, optionally, a vacuum sealer rather than Saran Wrap and butcher paper. A grinder to make burger from the scraps is nice, or you can just keep them for stew meat.

      4. My son and I processed a deer in December. We served him scallopinied over fettuccini with a mushroom and brandy cream sauce.

        1. I’m more of a fan of carbonara sauce, myself. Venison in a crock pot with carbonara sauce and mushrooms is fantastic!

          Granted, I make mine with cream of mushroom soup, not the classic Italian egg base. Egg base carbonara would never survive for hours in a crock pot, and if you’re cooking a tough cut of venison, you need those hours.

  3. The alarm  bells ringing about biodiversity loss are growing louder, and the  possibility of mass extinction is real. Anthropocentric property is a  key driver of biodiversity loss, a silent killer of species worldwide

    Nonsense baked in. One of the key claims is that modern people are killing species faster than ever before, but it all depends on us measuring species diversity equally well regardless of epoch.

    It’s one thing to count butterfly or salamander species now by counting spots or measuring length of toes or antenna; you simply can’t do that for fossils, and no one was doing it even 100 years ago the same as it’s done now. They find some critter in a marsh which is slightly different in a neighboring marsh separated by a freeway and call it a new species which proves how endangered both are, instead of thanking the freeway for creating the new (fake) species, and without thinking that such measurements and distinctions were not made 100 years ago, and cannot be made about fossils; thus they claim species are going extinct at unprecedented rates today, ignoring that their definition of species is creating them out of thin air far more than 100 years ago.

    1. I think there will certainly be a human caused mass extinction. You get mass extinctions whenever land bridges arise, because the species on one side or the other will be fitter than their previously isolated competitors. And human trade and travel have created virtual land bridges from everywhere to everywhere. You can try to slow it down, by having ships flush bilges off shore, requiring treated pallets, etc, but on geological time scales – tens of thousands of years – something will always slip through.

      There isn’t any solution other than reverting to a pre-Colombian world, which seems fairly unlikely politically.

      1. Ships flushing bilges off shore simply moves the problem out of sight, and possibly out of some peeps minds. Already there are issues with the huge fishing fleet from China in particular and Asia in general along with the fleets carrying mid east oil and the many tourist ships treating the ocean as a garbage dump. The number of some species of fish being caught is declining to the point of the species being endangered.

        I am not convinced the real problem is too many people taking up too much space and destroying previous environments by uncontrolled dumping of garbage.

        As an aside animals owning land wins the stupidest idea on the internet today.

        1. “Ships flushing bilges off shore simply moves the problem out of sight”

          FWIW, I think the theory is that when the ship fills its bilges with ballast in, say, Shanghai it is getting coastal species. If it discharges that water far enough off shore from its destination, those coastal organisms will find themselves unable to survive in the open ocean[1], whereas waiting until you enter Puget Sound will discharge them into a congenial coastal environment.

          [1]after all, if they could survive in mid-ocean, they would have already arrived at the new destination :-).

          The theory, I think, is OK as far as it goes, but it’s a delaying action. If you wait 10,000 years, there will be a war, someone will torpedo an aircraft carrier, and it will get towed back to its home port full of water from the distant shore, or the bilge pumps will fail on some tramp freighter so it can’t pump out before it arrives or …

        2. Animals owning land isn’t such a stupid idea if you think you can get paid serving as their next friend.

      2. Invasive species are a problem, but extinctions are more likely to occur due to habitat destruction, over-exploitation, poisoning and pollution and everyone’s favourite, climate change. For example the idea of a land-bridge is meaningless when it comes to the seas being reduced to current near desert-levels due to over-fishing. Having said that, when you’ve weakened ecosystems drastically they’re far more vulnerable to invasive species, so the best sfaguard is to restore eco-systems.

      3. The Age of Exploration (15th-17th centuries) already did that. Human trade introduced rats, pigs and goats to isolated ecologies that could not survive the intrusion. The number of extinctions since the completion of the exploration of the globe is nearly back to the pre-Exploration level.

    2. Part of this is blowing away the original definition of “species”.

      The original definition was that two groups of animals were different species if they weren’t significantly inter-fertile. Horses and donkeys are different species, because though they can interbreed and produce mules, mules themselves are sterile. If mules were fertile, by that definition, horses and donkeys wouldn’t be separate species, just varieties of the same species. Similarly, you can cross lions and tigers, but the “ligers” have very low fertility.

      Not so long ago they changed things so that two populations could be considered separate “species” due to geographical or other barriers to reproduction, even though they freely interbred, and weren’t genetically distinct.

      This dramatically multiplied the number of “species”, and the opportunities for them to go extinct.

      1. This is just silly.

        You imagine yet another conspiracy against all that is good and true.

        1. Except 90% of new species are new breeds of insects that are often impossible to distinguish without a magnifying glass, if not a microscope. There is little to no attempt to distinguish species, subspecies, and breed.

          There are also movements to consider the elimination of subspecies due to interbreeding with other groups as extinction events, and even to ignore captive animals in species counts (see articles mentioning “save the endangered poodle”).

        2. You imagine yet another conspiracy

          You’re the one imagining something here. He didn’t say (or even imply) anything about a conspiracy. He just made an assertion about a consequence of a change to a taxonomical definition.

          1. He was actually making the point that he doesn’t like greater study leading to greater understanding of the threat to biodiversity.

            1. No, I’m pretty clear about it being a change to taxonomy. Species was redefined in a way which dramatically increased the number of “species” while rendering them much more likely to “go extinct”, because a simple habitat reduction under the old definition becomes an extinction event under the new one.

              Personally, I LIKE species diversity. I think we ought to do some systematic gene banking as insurance so that species that go extinct can be reintroduced via cloning.

              But it doesn’t change the fact that numbers changing because the definition of words have changed doesn’t represent a real change in what is going on.

              1. Species taxonomy was refined beacuse of greater understanding of variations within origanisms and the importance of this biodiversity to the health and survival of related species and of the health of ecosystems. ‘Rendering them more likely to go extinct’ is just them getting a close up view of the process of extinction and ecosystem collapse.

                1. “and the importance of this biodiversity to the health and survival of related species and of the health of ecosystems.”

                  Which is to say, the definition was changed because “We need to protect this habitat” carries more weight if you can claim a species will go extinct if you don’t. It was changed for PR purposes, the science worked just fine with “sub-species” or “variety”.

                2. Species taxonomy was refined beacuse of greater understanding of variations within origanisms and the importance of this biodiversity to the health and survival of related species and of the health of ecosystems.

                  Male bovine fecal matter. Changing the definition of a term doesn’t lead to greater scientific understanding of anything. In this case it simply results in reclassifications.

            2. He was actually making the point that he doesn’t like greater study leading to greater understanding of the threat to biodiversity.

              No, he wasn’t…no matter what the voices in your head told you.

        3. Take the “Northern Spotted Owl”. Under the endangered species act it’s a “species”.

          The problem is, there is no distinct “Northern” spotted owl. There’s just the Spotted owl, which interbreeds freely across its entire range, and just looks a bit different at the Northern end of its range than it does at the Southern end.

      2. ‘This dramatically multiplied the number of “species”, and the opportunities for them to go extinct.’

        This is ‘it’s only a problem if you pay attention to it’ reasoning.

        1. No, its, “Cutting a foot off your yardstick doesn’t make everything longer” reasoning.

          1. More like they started using metres instead of yards and now I think everything is measured wrong.

          2. Good one.

            It’s very misleading to claim that species are going extinct when actually they do just fine and live all over the place, but are fading from one specific area.

        2. ‘This dramatically multiplied the number of “species”, and the opportunities for them to go extinct.’

          This is ‘it’s only a problem if you pay attention to it’ reasoning.

          You sound like the morons who doesn’t understand that adding conditions (that were previously given other names) to the Autism spectrum increases the number of persons diagnosed as “Autistic”, but does not actually mean that incidents of Autism have increased accordingly.

      3. The ability to breed was generally abandoned as a definition of “species” because it just doesn’t work well. Not only does it define some things as the same species that clearly shouldn’t be (your lions and tigers example) but it defines some things as different that shouldn’t be (Chihuahuas and St Bernards). Biologists became ever more creative in defining workarounds for those situations but their “answers” became increasingly complex and unworkable. The field largely deprecated that definition.

        Unfortunately, there is no obvious replacement definition and so “species” now has a half dozen different and mutually incompatible definitions which, nevertheless, are useful for answering specific questions.

      4. A liger’s pretty much my favorite animal. It’s like a lion and a tiger mixed, bred for its skills in magic.

  4. Only people born and raised in an urban enviorment could dream up this stuff.

    1. There is unrest in the forest
      There is trouble with the trees
      For the maples want more sunlight
      And the oaks ignore their pleas

  5. That’s just an excellent idea, give the animals title to currently public land and put them on the tax rolls.

    But if they don’t pay it will come out of their hides, so to speak.

  6. “University of California at Berkeley”

    Insane person teaches at “First Tier” law school.

    I wonder how many cats she lives with? Over under is dozen.

    1. Paid with taxpayer dollars. Remember that.

      1. What’s wrong with law schools? Someone has to teach students how to review those deeds of $70,000 houses in Can’t-Keep-Up, Ohio.

        1. “What’s wrong with law schools?”

          They take tax money from people who live in $70,000 houses and pay people three times that in annual salary to pontificate about whether animals should own property.

          1. Doesn’t the affirmative action hiring of conservatives by those law schools make those institutions more palatable to science-disdaining, half-educated, bigoted clingers?

            If not, why are we letting conservatives associate with our strong educational and teaching institutions?

            1. “Doesn’t the affirmative action hiring of conservatives…”

              Hiring smarter applicants isn’t affirmative action, Arthur.

            2. Academia’s approach to conservatives is more negative action than affirmative.

            3. They are only allowed to associate if they never open their mouths about anything remotely political.

    2. The architect of this (admittedly dubious) proposal teaches at ASU.

    3. Why is UC Berkley first tier?

      And in an open and competitive environment, how long would it remain that?

  7. The real racket here is that of course the animals will exercise their right to own and control property through self-appointed guardians.

    I shall have to run this by the county tax office, tell them to collect the property tax from the mice in the fields, the deer and bears and mountain lions who occasionally inspect their property, the turkeys who roost on the roof, and the squirrels who thunder down the deck at odd times. I am merely their guest, and not responsible for anything except interpreting their vocalizations and gestures in response to letters from the county.

    1. The animals will quickly be registered as Democrats and the Party will cast the animals’ votes.

        1. I gladly take a bow.

      1. The “owners” will cast the votes for them. Regular Democratic Party policy.

  8. It’s yet another exhibition of the elite crowd’s never-ending quest to find new ways to punish Americans and make life worse for us all.

  9. I have some ants that own my yard. They don’t want me here. Eventually, they may win.

    I wonder if this legal thought exercise will do it the same way as sacred cows in India. Higher animals, mostly mammals, will be seen as having rights, but not insects, and not viruses. Then comes phase II — plant rights.

    1. Hey, plants are people too!

      1. Plant Lives Matter!

        1. I think “Green Lives Matter” would have been funnier.

    2. Liquid Pool Chlorine works wonders on anthills.

      It turns ants into soap, will literally send the survivors out gasping for breath outside the colony, where they will die anyway.

      IANAL — nor have any idea if any of this is legal. I’m just suggesting that a couple gallons of pool chlorine (e.g. Sodium Hypochlorite) can, hypothetically, be quite effective….

  10. While the idea here sounds outlandish, it is not as unreasonable as first imagined. To start with the taking of property from the weaker has long existed. Europeans first traded for land when they arrived but as the United States was formed and grew, land was simply taken from the original people. The same thing happen to any wildlife that was in the way of people. How many today decry when government uses “eminent domain” to take property, but would think little of destroying habitat for a parking lot.

    Today’s environmentalist and conservationist act as the surrogate for the wildlife when they oppose development, ask for land to be set aside, or purchase land to be set aside. It can be said that wildlife has not requested this, but it is common for people to represent and advocate those who do not have the ability to do this themselves. Example are children or adults with diminished capacity.

    1. “it is common for people to represent and advocate those who do not have the ability to do this themselves”

      Sure, but how do you decide which species win out? Can I go to court and advocate for stopping the genocide of staphylococcus by banning penicillin? Isn’t saying panda bears matter more than smallpox is straight-up specieism?

      This isn’t about the rights of animals, it’s about human preferences, and trying to impose those preferences on the natural world. And of course, that’s what humans do. In fact it is what every species does. Wolves try to impose their preferences on moose, and tapeworms try to impose their preferences on wolves. Every animal species eats some other species, and only survives by fighting off the other species, large and small, that want to dine on it.

      And to be clear, I am a blatant specieist – I like antelope, hawks, bears, and nuthatches, and I don’t like mosquitos, liver flukes, or ants in my kitchen. I’m ambivalent about people :-). But there is nothing sacred about those preferences, they are just mine. Other species have very different preferences. It would be the height of arrogance for me to say my preferences are somehow more noble than some other set of preferences.

      1. Most people don’t like mosquitos. What interesting is how much we like depends on those little pests. Think of how much of the food chain rest on those little biting pests. How many fish you catch for sport or for food depend on mosquitos. How many bird and bat species. That is why I don’t spray my yard to keep the little pests down. I accept there is some blood loss to the process and I move into my screen porch when it gets too bad.

        We really don’t want to be speciest and to pick an chose what animals we like and what animals we don’t like. We really need to let nature do much of that for us as it can work the problem out better than we can.

        1. That “we” is doing most of the lifting for “I”.

        2. “We really don’t want to be speciest …”

          But we do! Skip your next few meals and see if you are willing to ruthlessly exploit another species (corn, wheat, soybeans, arugula, beef, or whatever).

          You do realize, I hope, that buffalo used to graze on soybean fields? We humans have not only displaced from that field the buffalo, but almost every other species – the songbirds, the prairie flowers, the beetles, and almost everything else. We have created a soybean desert, just so we can indulge in our lust for tofu.

        3. Mosquitos are the animals most lethal to humans.

          Not tigers, or bears, or sharks, but mosquitos and what they spread.

          1. Your correct, but as dangerous as mosquitos are we also need them. The fact is we like tigers and bears, but need them far less. Another example is mice. Dirty little disease carriers that invade our homes. Yet they are the basis of a vast food web.

            1. I suggest that you recall that the evolution of the sickle cell trait was in direct response to those gentle mosquitos

            2. Don’t understimate the need for apex predators in a functioning eco-system, but yeah, if the insects go, we’re gone too.

              1. Sure, you need apex predators in a functioning eco-system, it’s just that humans are apex predators, so we don’t actually need the competition. Though it’s nice to have some lesser predators around, we’re not that fond of squirrel.

                Really, we don’t need mosquitoes extinct. Genetically engineering them to leave humans alone would be entirely sufficient, and have no ecological consequences if done competently.

                1. we’re not that fond of squirrel

                  You just need to get a pressure cooker.

          2. So how do we register mosquitos to vote? They will die soon after they register but, good Democrats that they will be, they will be allowed to continue voting.

      2. Absaroka, the way around your objection is to practice a habit of setting lands and waters aside, and just letting them be. Keep expanding the set-asides. Keep letting them be. Do that as widely as possible, and as often as policy can manage.

        Ultimately, the critical value in need of preservation is genetic diversity. That notion encompasses both diversity among species, and diversity within species—with the latter much underrated in importance.

        Given rapid environmental change, natural genetic processes cannot reliably supply mutation fast enough to keep natural selection abreast of novel environmental challenges. A storehouse of pre-existing mutations—distributed at random among a variety of individuals, within a variety of numerous species—gives a chance for much quicker response, as every reproductive gene recombination sorts the deck for a new round of challenge by natural selection. Gene combinations which never mattered before can—under pressure of natural selection—get orderly sorting to deliver newly-useful traits in far fewer generations than would have been necessary in a process which had to await mutations before advancing.

        It is that storehouse of already-existing mutations, distributed among organisms of all kinds, which supplies the only saving buffer against extinction for humans themselves. You are quite right that we have no notion how to manage such a storehouse—save one. We must keep the storehouse as large as we can make it, and as randomly inclusive as may be.

        Anything less is folly. But for the present, people practice that folly as fast as they can. See if these comments don’t furnish prompt examples.

        1. “practice a habit of setting lands and waters aside, and just letting them be.”

          I’m all for that, but it doesn’t seem to have much to do with giving property rights to animals. It’s just people doing what they want with land – just in this case what they want is to leave it be.

          (I will confess to not being a purist, though. I pull invasive weeds, swat mosquitoes, get vaccinated, and take antibiotics when I’m sick, none of which are just letting things be)

          1. I have no idea what property rights for animals advocacy is about. The first thing I remembered was the disaster that befell American Indians after they were forced to stop farming collectively, and take private land holdings as compensation. I don’t know how it would happen, but assume that shortly following bestowal of property rights on animals, we would discover that most of them had somehow sold their property to condominium developers.

          2. I used to live out in the country, until I had to move in 08. I rather enjoyed living on a former farm, and spending decades watching it return to forest, with a little helping hand from me. The migratory birds liked that pond I put in, too.

            The worst thing that ever happened to that land in all the time I lived on it, is when the state decided the river running through it needed dredging, because properties upstream were flooding in heavy rains.

            Afterwards it was properties downstream that flooded in heavy rains, I never understood why that was preferable.

            1. The upstream properties are/were more valuable and the owners vote for the “right” politicians.

            2. You must have been asleep, Brett. The state needed to show you an environmental impact statement. You should have reminded them. With that in hand, the downstream property owners could have joined in the political process on their own behalf.

            3. By the way, Brett, did you get the usual government help with your pond?

              1. It was my parents’ land when they dredged the river in the 70’s.

                And, no, the pond was entirely privately paid for.

        2. This tactic doesn’t work very well for several North American environments. Tallgrass prairies simply wouldn’t survive on their own. Frequent fires in large swathes of land aren’t a great idea in the tinderbox of farming and they need that to keep many species at bay. The earthworm will never be extirpated. Trees that have colonized the plains are difficult to finally root out. Seedbanks of invasive species along the waterways can last for decades. Like it or not, almost all of it is just gone forever.

          I’m not as familiar with the environments of waterways used for shipping but my understanding is that they are also screwed, just further off in the future rather than two centuries ago. It’s just too difficult to keep bad species out, especially the stupid carp that can travel over land to get to virginal waters.

          1. gormadoc, what tactic works better?

            Around lands more-like original condition, adjacent less-like-original condition lands, if left alone, have a chance to be recolonized from the edges. Much has been discovered about natural tendencies in that direction.

            One famous example involved reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park. Unlooked for salutary changes followed one after another. Native stream conditions were re-established as the wolves drove elk back up the mountain sides, preventing in-stream browsing which elk had practiced after they lost fear of predation. There was less silt in the streams. Fish communities started to return toward historic norms. Stream-side vegetation health improved. Water temperatures dropped. Fish spawning-bed conditions improved.

            Wolf packs began to radiate outward from Yellowstone, and recolonize large areas in Idaho. Doubtless, similar effects as in Yellowstone are spreading in Idaho—and would spread more except for foolish policies to kill the wolves in re-colonized areas where they may sometimes prey on livestock.

            In 2015 I camped in one of those areas, a large, high-altitude basin in central Idaho. Despite over-use as cattle range, that basin had been noted as a continuing haven for every mammalian species it had hosted before white settlement of the area, except grizzly bears. I read news stories reporting that government hunters had shot out a wolf pack, to protect cattle. No doubt they were true. But I had a full moon, and heard both coyotes and wolves singing one night. Coyotes I had heard countless times. Wolves only once before. They are readily distinguishable.

            Get the cattle out of that basin, and leave it alone for as few as 20 years, and you would probably get back a near-pristine natural environment.

            Forty years ago, forestry experts told me something which I would never have suspected about central Idaho river valleys—the remotest wilderness river valleys left in the 48 contiguous states. Most of the rocks there are poor in phosphorus. Those experts thought continuation of forested conditions along those rivers depended critically on salmon spawning, in spawning beds thousands of feet above sea level. The salmon carry phosphorus up-river from the ocean, in their flesh. They die after spawning, and their carcasses become food for birds and other carrion eaters. Those then spread the phosphorus up-slope to the mountain-side river banks, fertilizing and maintaining the forests.

            That was the experts’ theory. They were concerned because the salmon runs were already in sharp decline, because of several newer dams downstream on the Snake river, which the wilderness rivers feed.

            When I returned decades later, I saw river-valley forests which were visibly struggling in many places. Across broad slopes, almost every tree was dead or dying. Maybe there was some other cause. Or maybe phosphorus starvation set the stage for other causes. Weakened trees suffer more from droughts and insect attacks.

            The salmon runs are largely gone, that is for sure. Building those particular dams was a stupid mistake, whatever the consequences. Too much else, across a very large area, depended on the natural state of those rivers. You could breach those dams, re-establish the salmon runs, and start moving back toward former conditions. You won’t see carp in those rivers until the forests are mostly gone from their banks, and the rivers silt up and warm up because of it. Maybe wiser not to wait.

            1. There just aren’t great techniques to actually restore prairie when it’s been gone a long time, as in Iowa or Illinois. The root systems take decades to really establish and trees that invade the area grow and establish very quickly. They also spread very well by root, which makes getting rid of them hard.

              There are attempts to expand existing tallgrass prairie but the attempts really just look like what we think of as prairie. The native wildlife isn’t the same and the reality under the soil is entirely different. I do hope they figure out a good way, but there’s already very little and it’s also very piecemeal.

              1. Mixed grass and short grass are in a better state, thank goodness, but even there we have to allot decades to regrowing it.

                1. Sure, of course. Get used to thinking of decades as a short time frame. Making the mess we need to fix took somewhat more than a century. The best results from even the best policy will not arrive much sooner than that.

                  But in principle, one great result is possible right away. You can change policy and reverse the arrow, pointing it toward renewal instead of toward degradation. Degradation avoided will be hard for a lot of folks to notice, which is too bad. Nevertheless, it would be an immediate step for the better, which at least some could celebrate. As conditions improved, more would notice.

              2. But the existence of prairie is just a consequence of CO2 starvation; Grasses are C4 plants, which cope with that better than trees and other C3 plants.

                Once we’ve restored CO2 levels to normal, put that sequestered CO2 back in the atmosphere where it belongs, grasses will return to being niche plants, not something that can take over an entire biome because everything else is on the verge of dying from too little CO2.

                The scale of the extinction event we prevented by starting to use fossil fuels is really hard to overstate. It would have been horrific, and we were just in time.

            2. “Get the cattle out of that basin, and leave it alone for as few as 20 years, and you would probably get back a near-pristine natural environment.”

              Sounds good. Get a bunch of people together and buy out the ranchers who use it for grazing, and go to it.

              Demanding that the government seize it, paying whatever they want, not so much.

              1. As those lands are likely government land leased, why can’t the environmentalist just compete with the ranchers for the leases?

                1. Moderation4ever. Excellent question. It was tried. Outraged ranchers lined up legal and political support, and got pro-environmental competitive bidding ruled out. I don’t have the details for you. It was years ago.

              2. It’s government land, Jerry, every bit of it. The cattle are in it because the government practically gives it away to the ranchers, with far-below-market grazing fees.

                Then government manages the land almost as if the range belonged to the ranchers, and the government was a private contractor, there to do the ranchers’ bidding. Ranchers say, “Kill those wolves,” government hunters kill the wolves. Ranchers say, “Too many antelope competing for grass,” government operatives cull the antelope. Environmentalists say, “Too many rancher-recreationists with four-wheelers, tearing up the landscape,” government managers say, “Land of many uses.”

                What does not happen much is what is needed most, policy prioritization to preserve biological values.

    2. Have to wonder about this quotation

      “Example are children or adults with diminished capacity.”

      Not sure about who has the diminished capacity, maybe who ever suggested the idea animals could own property.

  11. But of course, just like fetuses, any legislative attempt to confer rights on animals:

    1. Gets scrutinized under the Religion Clauses for violation of the Establishment Clause. The notion that we have to accept animals as part of the planet is every big as much a religious notion as the notion that we have to accept fetuses.

    2. Gets scrutinized under Lawrence v. Texas for being an irrational legislation of morality. The idea that people shouldn’t exterminate animals out of some sort of concept of respect tor animals is as a moral notion as the idea that people shouldn’t commit sodomy out of similar “temple of rhe body” concepts of moral respect. It interferes with the dignity of people genetically predisposed to hunt.

    3. In any event, regardless of the above, it is unconstitutional if it places an undue butden on any constitutional roght, enumerated or unenumerated. And I’m sure the current members of the Court are fully capable of peering into the penumbras and emanations in the Constitution, the white spaces between the letters of the text, and finding a few. After all, the Constitution’s penumbras and emenations seem to work much like the ink and white spaces in Roschach cards, and guns have been much on the Justices minds of late.

    1. What next? Voting rights for animals? And I suppose they will all end up as Democrats (with leftists casting the votes for the animals).

  12. Meh, with so many using Orwell’s “1984” as a manual of how to create a great society it was only a matter of time before one of them before one of them put their foot down and demanded that “Animal Farm” was far more appropriate.

    On the upside maybe it will make civil asset forfeiture and eminent domain proceedings much more interesting. Naturally the downside will be “you have been found guilty of picking a peach in your back yard without filing a 500 page environmental impact study. That will be $10,000 fine, 90 days in prison, and you’ll have to register as an animal offender.”

    1. Why would picking a peach label you as an animal offender?

      1. There could be deer or squirrels who were offended by you picking their peach. That’s the whole point of the 500 page impact study, to determine whether that peach actually belongs to some other animal.

    2. You right this as if it were a joke. But certainly in CA, you cannot eradicate animals from your back yard (except for sub-surface dwellers). Instead it is always “catch and release.” I assure you that raccoons find their way back in a couple of days. Mountain lions appear in the streets of downtown Berkeley and wild turkeys are now a large, aggressive and ubiquitous pest.

      1. Of course it should have been “You write as if…”

      2. Of course it’s a joke. California is just the punchline or at least boot to the skull line. Unfortunately for Califolk, “Florida man” and “California politician” are largely synonymous.

  13. This is related to an old idea first popularized in 1972 by Christopher D. Stone in the book “Should Trees have Standing?” I wrote a paper on it for my “Environmental Economics” college course circa 1978. Ultimately I concluded that it had little value compared to straight up regulation, if that is what society wants to do. As the above more visceral responses indicate, the bundle of rights that is “property” also include various responsibilities, which could cause problems for the “private” conservator or trustee arrangements that would attach to such ownership or “standing.”
    While “privatizing” environmentalism may appeal to libertarian sensibilities and the anthropomorphizing animal rights folks, I don’t quite get what would make it superior to regulation. In other words, isn’t the EPA already the “trustee” for these “property rights” with power to enforce them?

    1. Both legal standing and regulation generate worthless lawyer make work in rent seeking to plunder the assets of productive people.

    2. Christopher Stone was my Environmental Law professor in law school. He was a great example of what we actually want out of an academic- he had wild, out there ideas. But he also quite understood that he was a provocateur and that his ideas were more an attempt to get people to think about serious questions rather than necessarily something a court should adopt.

      I would say the modern heir to this is academics who theorize about slavery reparations. The idea isn’t that Congress is going to pass such a thing- it’s a way of getting us to think about the legacies of slavery and how it continues to do harm to people in the present.

  14. Animals. Best lawyer clients ever. Second best? Robots. Massive lawyer opportunity for rent seeking and to plunder the assets of productive people.

    I do not see any legal justification for such phyllism. Before killing billions of bacteria by wiping a counter with bleach on a towel, it should be required to get a court order after a fair hearing. Each bacteria should get standing, as a party with a right to representation, in accordance with the statutory Rules of Criminal Procedure. An appellate process should then be set up for this death penalty practice.

    1. What does “phyllism” mean? I can’t find it in any dictionary in my house (or via Google search).

      1. Life — Domain — Kingdom — Phylum — Class — Order — Family — Genus — Species

        According to Wikipedia. No idea why Mr Behar started at Phylum.

        1. Ah, got it. It would have been more clear if the joke had been phylum-ism.

      2. Pick any taxon and file discrimination charges, lawyer.

  15. Future generations will look back at the age of biocentrism with despair. Enlightenment will come in stages, first recognizing the right of self-determination for animals, then plants, but eventually the land itself will be acknowledge as its own master and property of no other. Admittedly that will make existence harder for non-terrain entities which will be required to hover to avoid trespassing on the emancipated earth, but it is a small price to pay for natural justice.

    1. Hi, Voize. What about bacteria, viruses, and prions, you phyllist?

      1. How about being dispatched by being boiled alive? That is what bleach does to bacterial protein, as it desperately deploys it heat shock proteins to survive an extra second. The bacteria are screaming for mercy in their quiet way.

      2. I hear you brother. Down with eukaryotic supremacy!

    2. I’ll believe your story when I read in a dolphin journal that “humans are almost as intelligent as dolphins.”

  16. This figures — if any Volokh Conspirator were going to take time and attention away from today’s preparations to receive marching orders during former Pres. Trump’s address to conservatives, Prof. Adler was at or near the top of the list.

    Will that golden statute stand next to Trump during the address to the disciples?

    1. I’ve heard of a golden calf, but never before a golden ass.

    2. You will bow to the golden statue of the one and true President, cheater.

      1. I will continue to win the American culture war, defeating half-educated conservatives, bigoted Republicans, and obsolete right-wingers.

        You get to complain about all of this damned progress as much as you like, clingers. Dedicate entire blogs to movement conservatism, if you wish. Endorse Ted Cruz. Nip at liberal-libertarian mainstream ankles. Ban people who make fun of conservatives. Censor liberals to your hearts’ content. But you will be defeated, and you will continue to comply with the preferences of your betters.

        That’s the American way.

        1. Artie. No one does cancel like the right. That is coming, cheater.

          1. The disaffected clingers in our deplorable backwaters haven’t stuck with or accomplished much of anything worthwhile in their lives; I see no reason to expect that to change.

            They are losers. They will continue to lose. To substantial degree they will continue to deserve it.

            The American culture war isn’t over. It has been settled. The good guys have won, as is usual.

    3. And the Rev’s here to skunk spray your Sunday.

      Rev. Sinister > actual Clothpersons > Rev. Kuck > almost anything else you can think of > Rev. Kirk.

      Jersey Ska/Oi! https://youtu.be/yDrCfX2-9Mk

    4. Kirkland, you don’t understand conservatives….

      1. He understands almost nothing except how to spew bigotry.

      2. No lefty does.

        1. To the extent the liberal-libertarian mainstream does not understand conservatives, I blame that on strong research and teaching institutions; reason; modern, successful, educated communities; and character.

  17. Will there be downloadable recipes and suggestions for which wood to use in a smoker?

    1. That’s an academic seminar I’d sign up for

    2. Did you say, wood? You should not be allowed to kill a tree without due process including a fair hearing on its death penalty.

      Phyllists and plant murderers cannot hear their distinguishable screams. Plants should get standing in courts, and full civil rights, including property rights.

      You may eat oil based liquid nutrition unless sentience can be discovered in chemically produced nutrients.

      Here, phyllists, enjoy the agonal screams of plants mass murdered by you. Plants are over represented in homicides and cannibalizations by cruel and mean spirited vegans. No Justice. No Peace. As what’s his unpronounceable, annoying name said, Green Lives Matter.

      From the Deep State, Commie propaganda outlet, the Smithsonian Magazine.


  18. Pretty mindbogglingly stupid idea. If the ultimate purpose of law is to help humanity the last thing you want to do is elevate rats and tapeworms to the same level and turn them into full on competitors for resources under the law with all the benefits and none of the responsibilities.

    1. You will incur the wrath of the Rev. Kirkland. The same was said about all other civil rights.

  19. Heinlein’s (PBUH) Crazy Years….

  20. I have the racoon’s pawprint on the quitclaim deed right here, your honor.

  21. There’s a Brahma bull that, by all indications, thinks he owns my pasture. I have done nothing to disabuse him. He goes where he wants, and I go around him. He still seems pretty virile, and the Democrats are rapidly attacking the culture, so it’s an open question which of us will be sent to the slaughter house first

  22. This could easily be about a statuary policy meant to leverage market forces towards conservationist ends.

    I see nothing about making the Constitution apply to animals, as many on here seem to be going off about.

    I figure a lot of you thought this was too good an example of those silly libs to bother thinking about what it might actually be about.

    1. If it’s similar to other proposals (which I do really like) it involves setting up trusts/corporations that actually own the land and manage it but are somehow bound to do so in the interests of the wildlife.

    2. I just took what was said – “Wildlife as Property Owners advocates for folding  animals into our existing system of property law, giving them the  opportunity to own land just as humans do—to the betterment of all.” – at face value.

      If they really mean ‘The Nature Conservancy should be able to own land like other corporations’, as Gormadoc says, then that’s great – we contribute to the N.C. and its local equivalents. But you don’t need a legal revolution to make those kinds of corporations legal.

      1. Property law is statutory. They can both be true.

        Maybe it is about treating spotted owls like people, but I don’t think that’s the most reasonable take.

    3. “it might actually be about”

      Its about eco fanatics using animal “ownership” to stop actual human owners from controlling their land.

      The Sierra Club etc. can raise money and buy land already. They don’t need some legal fiction to do so.

      1. Sure, if you disagree with conservation as a principle, then whatever method being considered to do so will make you mad.

    4. What would such a statuary policy look like? Marble being reserved for wild animals, metal for semi-domesticated animals, allowing only rapidly decomposing wood statues for domesticated animals and humans?

      I guess you did not go looking for a review (such as https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/animal-emotions/202011/should-wildlife-be-granted-the-right-own-their-homes) of the underlying book. It is pretty close to as nutty as many in this thread suggest: “We must fix the institution of property. […] Ships and corporations have owned property for decades; why not bison?” The specific idea seems to be wildlife trusts, which is very close to what was criticized early in the thread as a socialist saying “you cannot own that” — and meaning that they should control it instead.

      1. Dude, from your linked review Wildlife as Property Owners is a roadmap for stemming biodiversity loss. It provides a legal framework for preventing mass extinction.

        My book advocates for allowing wildlife to own land in trusts. This property-rights based solution sidesteps the polarization that has long stymied animal law. Individuals can implement wildlife trusts immediately, without waiting for sweeping legal or social change. This book also contains a blueprint for Congress to devote public lands, which comprise one-third of the United States, to wildlife interests.

        So…yeah, this looks like what I said it probably was. Your cherry-picked quotes aside.

        1. “Individuals can implement wildlife trusts immediately…”

          And this differs from the Nature Conservancy and conservation easements because….

          I’m genuinely curious. If there is something better, then we might use it for our land. Bearing in mind IANAL, we have a trust now … and it’s just a way of saying which people control things.

          1. Yeah, I have no idea either.
            But it doesn’t seem a crazy policy.

            Though the lady’s rhetoric is doing her no favors; she’s clearly used to preaching to the choir.

  23. Prof. Doremus is a member of the ALI. All 4000 members are on the arrest list.

  24. Wildlife as Property Owners advocates for folding  animals into our existing system of property law, giving them the  opportunity to own land just as humans do—to the betterment of all.

    The very premise is preposterous. This is ‘WrongThink’. 🙂

  25. Missed April 1st by a month.

  26. Here’s how many politicians will view this: Awww sweet! Another idiot argument so I can get in the way of rich people so my spouse can get another stock tip!

  27. How bout property rights for tens of millions of open border immigrants?

    1. Now we’re talkin’.

    2. They’d settle for human rights.

  28. I guess it’s nice for everyone to have a bit of fun here, but I would actually like to understand the idea a little better before mocking it.

    For example, setting aside land as a wildlife preserve doesn’t seem like a ridiculous idea, yet it could be seen as giving animals some set of “property rights” in the preserve.

    Property rights after all do not have a universal unchanging definition. They are a bundle of rights, and it’s not inconceivable that it might make sense to give animals a sort of bundle.

    1. I presume you are familiar with ‘The Nature Conservancy’ and similar groups. They buy land for conservation purposes, and either keep title themselves or sell it to governments under conservation agreements.

      That’s still people (the organization or the government) owning the land. The Nature Conservancy, I think, is generally pretty hands off, but I think they will still take some actions (fight invasive species, forestry to reduce fire danger, or whatever) that favor some species over another. That’s all just spiffy.

      With that background, can you flesh out how ‘giv[ing] animals a sort of bundle’ would work in practice? Let’s say the Conservancy deeds a piece of land to ‘the animals’. That’s not going change what animals do; our entire legal structure is invisible to animals. What are people going to do differently? Is the idea that the court will appoint counsel for ‘the animals’? What if different groups of humans think different things are best for the deer? Or what if one group of humans wants to do what’s best for the deer, while another wants to do what’s best for the wolves?

      I like wild areas and I like wildlife. Heck, we have property, and if there is a better way to protect it than conservation easements, I’m all ears. But I’m having problems seeing how, in any practical sense, ‘giving animals property rights’ is going to be different than the Nature Conservancy (which is mostly made up of people 🙂 ) owning the land. If you could flesh that out I’m very interested.

      1. I am familiar with the Nature Conservancy and similar state-level organizations. I think they do good work.

        Again, I’m not familiar with what Bradshaw is proposing, but I assume it doesn’t refer to ownership in the kind of structure we use for human land ownership. She’s not talking about a horse owning a pasture and selling (actual) grass to other horses, I think. Possibly the lawyers here are taking an overly legalistic POV.

        A look at the table of contents suggests to me that she’s looking for ways to to manage human-animal interaction in a positive long term fashion, by making some kind of property rights-based rules.

        I would guess that part of it is taking the kinds of arrangements now in place and making them permanent – the animals are not tenants, so to speak, but owners.

        1. At a guess, animal land ownership would apply on public lands. Depending on how that were implemented, it could notably reduce the legal scope for other uses of public lands, except for whatever uses wildlife managers blessed as beneficial for animals which owned protected rights. I can’t imagine how anyone could make that work, even before you got to the political trouble.

  29. People have differing views with respect to animals.

    Some people like dogs — friendly, dangerous, useful, small, large, quiet, loud, leashed, loose. Some people like dogs to the point of supporting them, treating them as well as or better than humans. Other people like dogs properly prepared, for dinner. Some people object to any dining on dogs. Others decline to partake but do not wish to control the conduct of neighbors. Some people breed dogs, precipitating other issues. Some people race dogs, or bet on racing dogs. Some people like to watch dogs fight.

    Interesting issues, particularly at a “libertarian” blog.

    1. OMG, a somewhat rational comment from RAK. Quick, someone check the temperature in hell.

  30. I identify as an armadillo anyway, so I support this.

  31. You reminded me. An old lady from down the street willed her house to her cats. She also left funds for trustees to maintain the house and pay the taxes. That persisted until all the cats were gone. I have no idea how the town registered the deed during that period.

    If a dog wandered onto the property, I wonder if the cats would have standing to file a trespass suit against the dog.

    1. Trustees generally own property in trust, so the house would be listed with a trustee as the owner (or several trustees as joint owners), just as for the accounts used to pay for property taxes, maintenance, food and whatever else.

  32. So bed bugs are going to own the humans whose blood they suck?

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