As Eagle Moves Off, A Growing Number Are in Line for List

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The bald eagle left the list of threatened and endangered species just in time for Independence Day last week, but will things look as good for another symbolic creature come Easter?

The New England cottontail rabbit, and a record number of others, are waiting for a chance at the protections that being placed on the endangered species list would bring. As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service celebrates the eagle's return, the list of "candidate species" -- animals and plants that biologists have determined merit protection but haven't made it onto the list -- is 278 species long, up from 182 in 1996.

The Bush administration has made far fewer additions to the endangered species list than its two predecessors. The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that President Bush has added 60 species, compared with about 550 by President Bill Clinton and 256 by President George H.W. Bush.

"There are more species in the queue, so to speak, than they have the staff and budget to deal with," said Interior Department spokesman Hugh Vickery. "It's kind of like doing triage in the emergency room. You have all these species that come into the door, and you have to decide which species have coronaries and which can actually be dealt with later."

In addition to the New England cottontail rabbit, those with some of the highest-priority designations on the candidate list include:

· Xantus's murrelet (bird).

· Sand dune lizard.

· Oregon spotted frog.

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