Endangered Species Act: Next Environmental Fight

Article excerpt

Environmentalists marked the 20th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act on Tuesday by calling on Congress to give the law more teeth to save at least 800 threatened plants and animals.

The act has saved the bald eagle and dozens of other species on the brink of extinction, but it needs more funding and enforcement provisions, the environmentalists said.

"It has missed opportunities because of weaknesses," said Ed Clark of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

The law was enacted two decades ago to protect the nation's dwindling plant and animal species and preserve their habitat. The law expired last year, but Congress extended it until the House and Senate consider its reauthorization this spring.

It promises to be one of the Clinton administration's biggest fights.

The law is opposed by landowners who say it takes away their property rights and steals jobs, claims that made headlines recently as the government tried to stem logging in the Pacific Northwest habitat of the endangered spotted owl.

On the other side are environmentalists who say the law stops development in fewer than 1 percent of controversial cases because the government and developers typically find some compromise. …