Bush Proposal for Endangered Species Act

By Cynthia Kirk

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

The Bush administration has proposed a measure that would temporarily suspend part of the Endangered Species Act. The law has been the main tool used by citizen's groups to win protection for plants and animals. President Bush requested the measure in his new budget that he sent to Congress earlier this month.

The plan would make it more difficult for citizens and environmental groups to take legal action against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency often faces legal action by groups seeking to force the government to list a species as endangered or threatened.

The administration's proposal would continue to permit citizens and environmental groups to take legal action to force the Wildlife Service to act on endangered species requests. But it would limit how much money the agency could spend to carry out new court orders or settlements.

The plan also would let the wildlife agency establish which species should be considered first under the Endangered Species Act. The agency also would have more power to decide which areas should be barred from any development.

About one-thousand-two-hundred kinds of plants and animals are now on the agency's endangered list. Most of them were listed as a result of legal pressure brought against the agency by other groups.

Environmental groups say legal action forces the Fish and Wildlife Service to obey the rules of the Endangered Species act. They say blocking their efforts would harm rare plants and animals. The Bush administration's proposal is part of a continuing battle about how far the government should go to establish which species need protection. Agency officials say too much time and money is spent dealing with legal actions and not enough on protecting species. They say an increasing number of legal actions has delayed decisions on about two-hundred-fifty species waiting to be considered.

Businesses and government agencies have criticized the endangered species law since it was established in Nineteen-Seventy-Three. They say environmental groups use the law to block development projects. But environmental groups say the law provides the only protection for rare plants and animals.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.

Voice of America Special English