In a sweeping policy shift that has environmentalists deeply worried, the Bush administration is urging federal judges to roll back legal protections for almost two dozen populations of endangered species. Government officials say the rollbacks are necessary because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which both enforce the Endangered Species Act, are facing nearly a dozen lawsuits from developers. Last May, a U.S. appeals court invalidated protection for nearly 600 miles of streams and rivers because the government did not fully review the economic implications of protecting them. Because a similar standard of review was used in other protection decisions, the feds say they are unlikely to win any of the other cases that have been brought against them. Species that could be affected by the rollback include whipsnakes, fairy shrimp, salmon, spotted owls, red-legged frogs, and others.
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