Heritage Foundation on Environment



Theory that "humans are a plague on earth" is wrong

Americans have witnessed tremendous environmental improvements over the past several decades. At the same time, they have enjoyed greater economic prosperity. These parallel developments counter popular perception, which suggests that increases in population size and economic growth are inherently at odds with environmental quality. In other words, U.K. broadcaster Sir David Attenborough's suggestion that "humans are a plague on earth" is wrong.

Highlighting the disconnect between big-government policies that restrict economic growth, and the reality that economic prosperity and environmental protection go hand-in-hand, is key to making further environmental improvements and respecting property rights and individual freedom. Today, the greatest opportunities for environmental progress lie in protecting and extending private property rights and enabling market innovations.

Source: 2013 campaign website heritage.org, "Commentary" , Jan 25, 2013

No criminal penalties for violating foreign wildlife laws

The Lacey Act is a conservation law that attempts to prohibit trafficking in "illegal" wildlife, fish and plants, including imports "in violation of any foreign law."

As Paul Larkin of the Heritage Foundation explains, "The Lacey Act would not raise concern if the only penalty were a civil fine, but the law authorizes up to one year's imprisonment for every violation of the act." Notably, the original Lacey Act of 1900 contained a penalty "not exceeding $200," and there was no provision imposing jail or prison time.

As the Heritage Foundation notes, the Lacey Act in fact "violates one of the fundamental tenets of Anglo-American common law: that 'men of common intelligence' must be able to understand what a law means.. The criminal law must be clear not to the average lawyer, but to the average PERSON. Even if there were lawyers who could readily answer intricate questions of foreign law--and do so for free--the criminal law is held to a higher standard\."

Source: Government Bullies, by Rand Paul, p.146-148 , Sep 12, 2012

EPA's "wetlands" definition regulates too broadly.

Party opposes North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act (NAWCA)

Congressional Summary: Extends through 2017 the allocations to carry out approved wetlands conservation projects.

Proponent's argument for bill:(US Fish and Wildlife Service statement on NAWCA): The North American Wetlands Conservation Act of 1989 provides matching grants to carry out wetlands conservation projects in the US, Canada, and Mexico for the benefit of wetlands-associated migratory birds and other wildlife. The Standard Grants Program supports projects that involve long-term protection, restoration, and/or enhancement of wetlands and associated uplands habitats. The Small Grants Program supports the same type of projects but project activities are usually smaller in scope, [under] $75,000.

Opponent's argument against bill: (Heritage Foundation 2008 statement on wetlands enforcement): The 2006 Supreme Court ruling in Rapanos v. US restricts the EPA from setting a strict and expansive definition on what classifies as a wetland and what can and can't be regulated. The EPA defines wetlands as "including swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas", but it is more complicated than that. For instance, in the Rapanos case, Rapanos' land was 20 miles away from navigable water, but under the EPA's unrestrained definition, the term "navigable water" was also broadly defined. Having such an expansive definition would allow the EPA to run wild with environmental regulation. A less expansive definition may beget more uncertainty as to how the EPA should regulate wetlands, but it will also lead to more careful deliberation rather than unwarranted regulations.

Source: S.741 / H.R.2208 13-S741 on Apr 16, 2013

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Page last updated: Sep 24, 2016