Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group, yesterday raised the annual grades it awards the Reagan administration for efforts to protect endangered species. And for the first time it graded Congress, and found it not much better in some ways.
Congress is considering renewal of the Endangered Species Act this year, and the group, like others, is backing a proposal to double annual appropriations to $53.7 million.
The group said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed more species for protection (60) and added more to the lists of endangered and threatened species (47) than in any year since 1979.
It added that the service also almost met the one-year deadline for making decisions on proposed additions to the list, with an average delay of 369 days. Only 12 decisions are overdue. But the backlog of species being reviewed, 3,827, has not changed significantly, the group said.
Interior Department spokesman Alan Levitt said, "A cursory reading of the report shows that it ignores much progress in recovery in recent years as well as major progress in law enforcement. A number of 'sting' investigations have been very successful and we believe the Justice Department is pleased with them, too. We'd like to do more, but we're trying to live within a budget."