Babbitt to Announce Proposals to Revise Endangered Species Act

From Reuters

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt will announce new proposals Monday for changing the federal law protecting endangered species, including steps to ease the law's impact on property owners.

The Interior Department said the revised Endangered Species Act will strive for a better balance between nature conservation and economic development.

The changes will be designed to increase community participation in decisions on land-use and improve the way government agencies plan recovery of threatened plants and wildlife, the department said.

The Clinton Administration has come under heavy pressure from Republican members of Congress, who have been accused by environmentalists of trying to gut the Endangered Species Act to protect businesses.

"We hope to see more accommodation for private-property interests," said Angela De Rocha, spokeswoman for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), who has introduced legislation to put the endangered-species law on hold.

Environmentalists expect Babbitt's proposals to give a nod to the Republicans' concerns, but not reopen the whole law.

"They'll be tinkering around the edges, tipping their hat to landowners," said Melinda Pierce, public lands lobbyist for the Sierra Club.

"Their mantra has been to try to make the act more user-friendly," she said of the Clinton Administration.

Under the law, property owners can be penalized for developing areas that are habitats for rare plants or animals.

Conservatives have focused their protests against that portion of the law, citing the loss in property value when development is limited because a local plant or animal has been added to the endangered list.

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