The Interior Department has announced plans to undertake a nationwide survey of plants, animals and natural habitat.
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said Saturday that the project will compile information on biological resources, determining what the species are, where they exist and the condition of their habitat. The information would be used in developing policy, especially regarding endangered species.
Much of the information already exists within government agencies on a regional basis but has not been collected for use in overall policy-making, officials said.
Babbitt named Thomas Lovejoy, assistant secretary for external affairs at the Smithsonian Institution and an authority on biological diversity, as his science adviser and leader of the survey project.
In addition the department has contracted with the National Academy of Sciences to develop a plan on the scope of the survey and how it will be conducted.
Babbitt has listed a biological survey as one of his top priorities, partly as a way to address the burgeoning conflicts created under the Endangered Species Act.