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Jack Block: Dusky Gopher Frog

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

By now, I should not be surprised when the federal government uses its power and strength to hammer a defenseless individual citizen. Let me tell you about Edward Poitevent and the dusky gopher frog.

In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a new habitat rule. On May 21, 2011, they called Mr. Poitevent and told him that his 1500 acres of land in Louisiana was a potential habitat for the endangered dusky gopher frog. There were no gopher frogs on his land.

The last 100 dusky gopher frogs on the planet lived in Mississippi 100 miles away. The Fish and Wildlife Service decided that Mr. Poitevent’s private land would be a natural habitat for the endangered frog.

Turn back the clock to 1960 and before; there were dusky gopher frogs in many southern states – probably on Mr. Poitevent’s land. A biology professor at New Orleans University tipped off the Fish and Wildlife Service about the possibility that the frog might thrive on the Poitevent land. The land is worth perhaps as much as $34 million.

This whole story is absurd. We have an American citizen whose family has owned their land for more than 150 years and, out of the blue, Mr. Poitevent is shocked by the federal government’s demand that this useless frog has special rights to the land. Keep in mind that there are no dusky gopher frogs on the land today, but if they knock on the door you must let them in. The federal government has effectively closed the door on any commercial opportunities that Mr. Poitevent might want to explore.

This is the most extreme example of government overreach that I am aware of; however, not the only one. There are new cases being exposed every day. Endangered species law has tied the hands of ranchers throughout the west. I hope they never find a spotted owl in my corn field. That would shut me down.

This frog case is going to the Supreme Court. Mr. Poitevent said, “They thought I would roll over and give up my land rights – no way.”

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.  If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit

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