The biggest issue with the US Congress’ habit of delegating its law-making authority to the regulatory arm of the executive branch is that it often leads to ambiguous standards and low accountability for federal agents implementing policy. Meanwhile, the regular folks are left walking on eggshells, not knowing exactly what’s expected of them, but being very aware that they’re nonetheless at the mercy of a federal agency with little oversight, a big imagination for filling in the vagary of federal statutes, enormous law-enforcement authority, and literally the power to print money.
In a recent story from FoxNews, one Texas land-owner finds himself the latest target of the regulatory state. Rancher John Yearwood of Georgetown, Texas had the misfortune of an endangered species of spider being discovered on his property. Known as the Bone Cave Harvestman or Texella reyesi (an admittedly cool name!), the blind cave dwelling spider is preventing Mr. Yearwood from using his land. No, it’s not that the spider is so dangerous that John needs to steer clear of it, rather it’s the EPA that’s the danger.
Enforcing the Endangered Species act, the Environmental Protection Agency is defending our eight-legged friend with the power of levying fines and incarceration if Mr. Yearwood does anything that might disturb the little arachnid. From all appearances, John wants to stay on the right side of the law and comply with whatever is required of him, but that’s the problem: the EPA won’t specify what he can or can’t do on his own property. At this point, any activity on his land could conceivably get him into trouble with DC, so for now, the only way he’ll know that he’s done something wrong is when they come to arrest him. Until the federal bureaucracy is reigned in, Mr. Yearwood is left with little safe recourse but to leave his property unused while petitioning to get old Texella off the endangered species list. Until either of these things happens, he might as well own land on the moon; it’ll be as much use to him.
As a person formerly connected to the National Park Service, I am not unsympathetic to the cause of preserving endangered flora and fauna. Certainly, most Texans would likely want to preserve our native species for future generations to enjoy, if for no other reason. However, the Washington solution seems to follow a typical pattern of ham-fisted implementation and apathy to common courtesy and respect for the rights of land-owners. The EPA could work with local authorities and ranchers like Mr. Yearwood to find a compromise that is satisfactory to all concerned, perhaps providing generous compensation if nothing can be worked out, or at the very least providing specific guidance to those trying to get along under such unfortunate circumstances. Instead, the federal government does what it likes, indifferent to how many criminals they make out of the otherwise law-abiding. “We’re from Washington! Stinks to be You!” should be the EPA’s motto.
This is yet another case of a bureaucracy out of control, owing to a federal government that routinely operates outside the bounds of its legal constitutional authority. Until Texas shakes off the manacles of this incurable federal mess, I’m sure that Texian Partisan will be kept busy writing about many similar future violations of liberty and decency by a federal government ironically tasked with preserving the rights of individuals.