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U.S. petitioned to protect 225 species

Noted researchers and environmental groups petitioned the government to add 225 plants and animals to the endangered species list.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Scientists, including acclaimed wildlife biologist Jane Goodall, joined environmental groups Tuesday in petitioning the government to add 225 plants and animals to the endangered species list.

The species are not new to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; four-fifths have been on the agency’s waiting list for a decade. Some have been waiting since 1975. The average is 17 years.

Goodall, known for her pioneering research on chimpanzees, signed the petitions, joined by other prominent scientists including biologists E.O. Wilson of Harvard University and Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University.

“Wildlife is facing serious threats almost everywhere,” Goodall said in a statement. She accused the Bush administration of seeking to undermine the Endangered Species Act.

Eleven individuals and three environmental organizations filed the petitions, said Brian Nowicki, a conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, which organized the effort.

A spokesman for the Interior Department accused the Tucson-based group of misrepresenting the realities of the endangered species program. Hugh Vickery attributed a decline in listing new species to “a flood of lawsuits” filed by the center and other plaintiffs since 1997.

The 225 species listed in the petitions are from 39 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Mariana and Northern Mariana islands and American Samoa. Nearly half are from Hawaii.

More than 1,200 species have been placed on the endangered list since the Endangered Species Act became law in 1973, Nowicki said. The Bush administration has listed only 31 species as endangered, in contrast to an average of 65 a year by the Clinton administration and 59 a year under the first President Bush.