Declaring that the Endangered Species Act works, the administration says 29 species of birds, plants and animals, including the bald eagle, are on their way to recovery and may soon be removed from the law's protection.
The proposal to be unveiled today by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt marks the first time in the law's 25-year history that such a large number of species would be earmarked for removal from the endangered list, although it would be done over two years.
Babbitt is scheduled to trumpet the proposed removal of such species as the peregrine falcon, the bald eagle, the Eastern timber wolf and the Aleutian Canada goose during a visit to a bald eagle nesting area in a wildlife refuge near Gill, Mass.
"For the first time we can see the light at the end of the tunnel," Babbitt says in remarks prepared for the Massachusetts audience. "We can now prove one thing conclusively. The Endangered Species Act works. Period."
Critics of the 1973 law say it not only has caused widespread economic harm to landowners but also has shown little evidence of protecting species since only a handful over a quarter-century have recovered enough to be left on their own.
There are 1,135 species on the list.
Babbitt, speaking to reporters Tuesday, acknowledged that efforts to get species off the list have lagged, but he said that's in part because "we've had to dig our way out from under" a backlog of species awaiting to be listed. That backlog grew when Congress imposed a yearlong moratorium on new listings in 1995.
Since the moratorium ended in April 1996, the backlog of species awaiting a final listing decision has dwindled to about 100. The Fish and Wildlife Service is putting new priority on unlisting some of the plants that have shown significant signs of recovery.
The Interior Department announced 29 species, including animals, fish, reptiles, birds and plants, that have recovered enough to be seriously considered for removal from the endangered list. Some of the species will be downgraded to threatened and others removed from the law's protection altogether, although states may still regulate them.
The 29 include such well-known species as the peregrine falcon, bald eagle and Michigan timber wolf _ all of which have made widely publicized comebacks in recent years.
The bald eagle population, which had declined to 417 nesting pairs by the early 1960s, has steadily rebounded and now totals about 5,000 nesting pairs. The bald eagle became a victim of pesticides, and its recovery coincided with the ban on DDT in the United States.
These animals, plants are doing much better
Species proposed to be removed or downgraded from the Endangered Species Act list over the next two years:
American peregrine falcon (North America)
Bald eagle (48 conterminous states)
Aleutian Canada goose (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Canada)
Columbia white-tailed deer (Washington, Oregon)
Tinian monarch (Northern Marianas Islands)
Guam broadbill (Guam)
Mariana mallard (Northern Mariana Islands)
Hawaiian hawk (Hawaii)
Brown pelican (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida)
Gray timber wolf (Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin)
Dismal Swamp Southeastern shrew (Virginia, North Carolina)
Ash Meadows Amargosa pupfish (Nevada)
Tidewater goby (California)
Oahu tree snails (Hawaii)
Pahrump poolfish (Nevada)
Virginia Northern flying squirrel (Virginia, West Virginia)
Island night lizard (California)
Hoover's wooly-star (California)
Truckee barberry (California)
Three Ash Meadows plant (Nevada)
Eureka Valley plants (2) (California)
Chamaesyce skottsbergii (variation kalaeloana) (Hawaii)
Loch Lomond coyote-thistle (California)
Lloyd's hedgehog cactus (New Mexico, Texas)
Running buffalo clover (Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia).
Virginia roundleaf birch (Virginia)
Robbin's cinquefoil (New Hampshire, Vermont)
Heliotrope milk-vetch (Utah)
Missouri bladder-pod (Missouri)