Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Endangered Species List `On' Again
The Interior Department will get to work quickly to determine whether any endangered wildlife species face imminent extinction as it resumes work on a program that Congress suspended for a year, officials said Friday.
The Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service announced its plan to restart the endangered species listing program after President Bill Clinton waived the moratorium imposed by Congress. Lawmakers had complained that the program, which preserves the habitats of endangered plant and animal species, infringes on property rights and stalls economic growth.
During the moratorium, the Fish and Wildlife Service said, it accumulated a backlog of 243 species awaiting a final ruling on whether to be added to the list. Of those, 162 species face "imminent, high magnitude threats," the agency said.
Interior Department officials said the moratorium on listing new species as endangered had thrown the program into turmoil.
For a year "all of the lights have been turned off and the doors c losed" in the endangered species program, said Mollie Beattie, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the listing. "After a year in mothballs," she said, it will take months to bring the program back to full speed.
"For all this cost and trouble what was achieved?" Beattie said. "Was there any economy? No. Was there any conservation? No. The big question is not that we lost any species, but what was gained? It's cost us more moving people around."
But supporters of the moratorium defended it as useful.
"It brought attention to the shortcomings of the Endangered Species Act, in particular the process used to list species as endangered," said Rep. …