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ENVIRONMENT REPORT- September 21, 2001: Endangered Species Agreement - 2001-09-20

This is the VOA Special English Environment Report.

The Bush administration has agreed to speed efforts to protect twenty-nine kinds of animals and plants that are most in danger of disappearing.

Officials from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and four environmental groups reached the agreement last month. Wildlife officials promised to act quickly to list species of rare mammals, birds, fish, snails and butterflies under the Endangered Species Act.

A listing under the Endangered Species Act provides strong protection for a species. It bars government agencies and private companies from doing anything that harms a species or its environment.

Under the act, members of the public can request that some species be listed as endangered so that they will receive federal protection. The law says that officials must decide about the requests within a year.

But listings have often led to court battles. Property owners argue that some species are not important enough to require such protections.

However, environmental groups say that all species are important and are worth protecting. They say endangered species often are signs of environmental problems that could affect humans.

The agreement calls for the government to consider three species for emergency listing under the Endangered Species Act. They are a kind of snail, butterfly and rabbit that are in immediate danger of disappearing.

The agreement also calls for the wildlife service to make decisions about listing twenty-six other species considered threatened.

In exchange, environmental groups promised to delay demands that the federal government act on eight less seriously endangered species. The delay permits the wildlife service to use more money from its budget to protect only the most endangered species.

Four environmental groups were involved in the negotiations. The groups have repeatedly taken legal action to force the federal government to enforce the Endangered Species Act.

Government officials and environmental groups praised the agreement.

They say it shows that the two strongly opposing sides can work together to save species most in need of help. They say they hope this can be a model for future agreements.

This VOA Special English Environment Report was written by Cynthia Kirk.