Demanding Payment for Good Behavior

Advocates for the wise use movement have come up with some pretty loopy ideas -- among them, a scientifically silly proposal to halt global warming by clear-cutting ancient forests. But one of their radical notions has been getting a friendly hearing from the courts, Congress and the Bush Administration. The idea, which could ultimately cost state and federal governments billions, is that private landowners are constitutionally entitled to compensation when a government imposes environmental restrictions on how their land may be used. Citing the clause in the Fifth Amendment that bars the government from taking private property "without just compensation," scores...

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