This is far from my usual post... but I've been working on this so much today, I feel compelled to put this out there... Please humor me!
As any basic history course teaches, our Founding Fathers identified three things to be the most intrinsic human rights: Life, Liberty, and Property. Yet, the US government has continuously undermined property rights under the guise of necesassary "takings." This is especially true with regards to the Endangered Species Act. If I asked you, on the face, whether or not you supported the ESA, you would undoubtedly say yes. Who wouldn't? Endangered species need protection, right? Being the lover of all things furry (or on all fours), I would have been inclined to give the same answer a few days ago. This is because few people know just how unsuccessful the Act actually is, (it has a 1% success rate!) and the high economic costs that are associated with it - particularly the punishment of private property owners.
Because ESA punishes landowners who are found to have rare or endangered wildlife on their property, it creates a perverse incentive for them to harm the very species ESA is designed to protect. Under ESA, landowners have lost millions of dollars worth of property because of the discovery of a single sand fly or rare snail! If you owned millions of dollars of property and knew that such a creature had set up a "habitat" on it, would you run and tell the government -- or would you squash it and hope you never get caught? What if the government were to compensate you for the lost use of your property? Or if you would be given funding from the government for protecting the species on your land and allowing it to remain? Would you at least be a LITTLE more inclined to let the creature live? This would surely be an incentive to landowners that would benefit species.
Sadly, ESA has made landowners the enemy of endangered wildlife and failed to provide incentives for their participation in conservation efforts. The Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act, which was recently passed by the US House is a step in the right direction -- but it doesn't do enough to protect property owners.
While I am far from a tree-hugging liberal, I am as concerned about the extinction of species as the next person. Rather than encouraging destruction through regulatory efforts and increased beaurocratic hurdles, the government should concentrate on creating better incentives... then it will reach its goal of protecting endangered species.
For further reading, see the 5th Amendment!