This morning, the Supreme Court ruled, unanimously, that a species’ “critical habitat” for purposes of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), is habitat where the species actually lives. Accordingly, it sent Weyerhaeuser v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to determine whether that’s the case for certain land involving the dusky gopher frog, as well as to see whether the federal agency properly used cost-benefit analysis in its designation.
This quick ruling, coming less than two months after argument, was a breath of fresh air. The ESA doesn’t give the government unlimited authority to do whatever it wants—and land on which a particular animal has never lived and where it can’t live can hardly be considered “critical habitat.” The Fish and Wildlife Service should look into ways of protecting critters without intruding on private property rights or abusing federal power. Good on the Supreme Court for holding bureaucrats’ feet to the fire of judicial review.