Continued from page 1

“The science supports protecting these species,” he said. “They were obviously in peril, and our agreement with the agency was intended to allow it to finally address these listings.”

Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe praised the deal and referred to the Endangered Species Act as a “critical safety net for America’s imperiled fish, wildlife and plants” in a statement provided by his office.

Agency spokeswoman Vanessa Kauffman said much of the work to comply with the settlements was well under way before the deals were finalized. The settlements also contained provisions aimed at limiting the number of petitions that can be filed by the two environmental groups if they want additional animals and plants considered for protections.

Kauffman said that would free up agency staff to spend more time on species recovery.

Noah Greenwald with the Center for Biological Diversity said the Fish and Wildlife Service was making “substantial progress.”

“This is what we were looking for — starting to move species out of the pipeline into listing, and getting more species into the pipeline to get them under consideration,” he said.

Under the settlements, the Fish and Wildlife Service put off until later decisions on some of the more contentious species, including greater sage grouse, the Pacific walrus and Sonoran desert tortoise. Those could have wide-ranging implications for oil and gas drilling, grazing and, in the case of the walrus, potentially climate change policies.

Similar tensions have surfaced throughout the Endangered Species Act’s history, from fights in the 1990s over the spotted owl and logging in the Pacific Northwest to recent clashes over how much undeveloped habitat threatened grizzly bears need to survive.

But there are ways to work through those conflicts, said Thomas Lovejoy, with the Heinz Center in Washington. A former biodiversity adviser to the World Bank, Lovejoy said the government has shown a willingness to be flexible with other protected species. He pointed to the red-cockaded woodpecker, found in 11 southern and south-central states, and said recovery was being achieved even as development continues, under deals that ensure enough habitat is protected elsewhere.

“The first thing that will happen is people will look at this and say, ‘Oh my God, the slender salamander, what is that going to do for us? Or Franklin’s bumblebee, what is that going to do?’” Lovejoy said. “It’s not in every example the government tightens the screws.”