Preemptive Habitat Destruction under the Endangered Species Act
This paper examines the extent to which landowners have preemptively destroyed habitat for the endangered red‐cockaded woodpeckers (RCWs) in the forests of North Carolina in order to avoid potential land‐use regulations prescribed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under the ESA, it is illegal to kill an endangered species and it is also illegal to damage its habitat. By preventing the establishment of an old‐growth pine stand, landowners can ensure that RCWs do not inhabit their land and avoid ESA regulations that limit or prohibit timber harvest activity. Data from 1984–90 on over 1,000 individual forest plots are used to test predictions about the probability of harvest and the age of timber when it is harvested. We find that increases in the proximity of a plot to RCWs increases the probability that the plot will be harvested and decreases the age at which the forest is harvested.