A few months ago we noted some blog posts on the decision of the US Supreme Court in Horne v. Department of Agriculture, which seemed to seemed to revive the doctrine that wildlife is state property. Now there's an article: John Echeverria & Michael Blumm, "Horne v. Department of Agriculture: Expanding Per Se Takings While Endorsing State Sovereign Ownership of Wildlife". From the abstract:
In Horne v. Department of Agriculture, the Supreme Court expanded its so-called per se analysis under the Takings Clause to government actions impairing possession of personal property. The Court decided that a New Deal era agricultural program effected a taking by requiring raisin growers to turn over a portion of their crops in certain years to a governmental body that disposes of the raisins in noncompetitive markets. The raisin marketing program, which by law only persists with continuing support from the raisin industry itself, aims to control the market supply of raisins, and thereby elevate and stabilize the prices received by raisin growers. Despite the unusual character of the program, a majority of the Court ruled that certain dissident raisin growers were entitled to prevail on their theory that government "appropriations" of personal property interests in raisins were governed by the same per se takings rule that applies to government appropriations of real property.
The Horne decision did include an unexpected result of considerable benefit to government defendants, however: the Court distinguished the raisin marketing program from a similar program involving oysters that it upheld against a takings challenge in a 1929 decision. The Chief Justice explained that, unlike raisins, oysters were public property. The Court thereby ratified the venerable but somewhat misunderstood doctrine of sovereign ownership of wildlife. States employ this doctrine, inherited from England and nearly universally adopted by American states, to uphold wildlife conservation regulations and defeat claims of private ownership. Often referred to as the “wildlife trust,” the doctrine is the kind of “background principle” of property law that the Court recognized as defeating claims of takings in its 1992 decision of Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Commission.
In this article we examine the Horne decision in some detail. Although the case does extend the Court’s takings jurisprudence to an uncertain extent by applying the per se analysis to personal property, we think the long-term ramifications of the decision lie in the Court’s recognition of the sovereign ownership of wildlife. That doctrine not only will defeat private takings claims but should sanction affirmative regulation of wildlife and protection for its habitat, authorize government actions to recover damages against those harming wildlife and wildlife habitat, and reinforce public standing to enforce the wildlife trust.