A Win for Man, Nature
THE Bush administration, which had avoided acting on stronger protection for endangered plant and animal species for most of its four years - even after being sued last April by wildlife organizations - has finally approved expansion of the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. With the election over, the White House agreed to an approach, long sought by naturalists, which will examine the need for protection of entire ecosystems rather than single species.
The matter of wildlife preservation will, however, remain political: The lumber and housing industries have already signaled doubt about a policy that, if implemented, could double or triple the number of plants and animals protected.
But a positive aspect of the changed approach even for commercial interests is that decisions as to whether to permit or ban timber cutting are expected to be made faster and affect larger areas than before.
If conservationists have their way, as many as 1,200 animal and plant species could come under protection. At present, 750 species are covered - almost 90 percent of them plants and most in Western states.
Wildlife proponents and specialists in the field say the ecosystem approach will make it much more likely that many species on the edge of extinction will survive into the 21st century. …