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Wildlife group raps US on endangered species

The government's program to protect animals and plants facing extinction is moving so slowly that the current backlog of species awaiting review could take nearly a century to complete, according to a study by Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group.

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The study was critical of every administration since President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law in December 1973. But it was especially unhappy with the Reagan administration, saying that former Interior Secretary James Watt pushed drastic cutbacks in funding for the program and imposed a virtual moratorium on new listings of endangered species.

But the study also said efforts by the Interior Department to save such well-known threatened species as the bald eagle and the grizzly bear deserve commendation.

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