Posthaste Facts on the Environment #18

Without Consent -- Government Creates Fiery Rat Park

Produced April 15, 1996

Rats have rights, too! At least that's what California farm owner Cindy Domenigoni learned. The federal government forced her to reserve part of her land as a park for rare rats.

"Without our knowledge or consent, over 1,600 acres of our ranch were placed in a reserve study area as part of a Habitat Conservation Plan for the Stephens Kangaroo Rat," testified Cindy Domenigoni before Congress. While 50 percent of the family's land was "borrowed" by the government, an even larger portion was effectively confiscated by law. Under the terms of the Endangered Species Act, destruction of the rats' habitat -- in this case, tilling the Domenigoni farm's field -- is punishable by fine and/or imprisonment. With little choice but to comply, the family was coerced to idle 800 acres of land as a "park" for rare rats.

"For over one hundred years our family cared for, encouraged, and were proud to have a wide diversity and abundance of species and wildlife habitat on our land," said Domenigoni. "Our family's good stewardship was rewarded by the loss of our land and a financial impact of over $400,000." To add further injury, even though the government provided zero compensation for taking the Domenigonis' land -- the family was still required to pay a hefty property tax on the useless land.

Unfortunately, this victim story only gets worse for several California families -- and for the rats. Fueled by the excessive field vegetation, the California fire of 1993 roared its way across the Kangaroo Rat study area, devouring 25,000 acres of land, 29 family homes, and the rats' residence in the field. "What is painfully clear is that this devastation might have been avoidable if we would have been able to disk firebreaks and farm our properties as we had in the past," said Cindy Domenigoni.

Source: Cindy Domenigoni, April 15, 1996


Posthaste Facts on the Environment #18, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Court, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax (202) 543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web http://www.nationalcenter.org. For more information about Posthaste #18 contact Bob Adams at 202/543-4110 or [email protected]

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