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The Jeffrey Dautel Story

For 17 years, Jeffrey Dautel has been paying taxes on a lot he owns in a picturesque lakeside neighborhood in Sparta, New Jersey. The lot is 1.27 acres in size, and Dautel wanted to build his own house on a small part of the land. Because the lot is near a lake, he needed a wetlands permit to build there. However, a small part of his land that fell under the wetlands designation was deemed wetlands of an "exceptional resource value" by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This is because Dautel's property is allegedly vital to the northern barred owl, an endangered species in New Jersey. It's debatable that the barred owl should even be considered an endangered species given that there are a lot of them. Indeed, there are so many in the Pacific Northwest that they are becoming a menace to the spotted owl, a federally-protected species.

In reality, there are no barred owls living on Dautel's property. Even the DEP concedes that. Nevertheless, the DEP reasons that Dautel cannot build his house because some day the barred owl might stop in for a quick snack. Although Dautel cannot build a house on his lot, the town still expects him to pay taxes. Dautel's situation could be remedied with a strong dose of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the government from taking a person's property without just compensation. But Dautel does not want to sue because he is fearful of angering the bureaucrats who will decide the outcome of his case. He is still working with the DEP in hopes of reversing their earlier decision.
Source: Jeffrey Dautel