The future of the Endangered Species Act may come down to a regional wrangle among congressional Republicans.
A reauthorization bill favored by Western lawmakers recognizes that not all species can be saved from extinction. It requires stricter scientific determinations in the listing of species and allows special interests to have a hand in reviewing them.
This bill also narrows the definition of ''harm'' to exclude habitat destruction on private land. It gives more power to states and forces the federal government to compensate landowners when property value declines because of species-protection measures. Clinton administration officials say the president would veto such a bill.
Another measure, introduced last week by Eastern lawmakers who describe it as ''a moderate Republican alternative,'' also includes a greater role for state and local officials, private landowners, and businesses in designing recovery plans for endangered species.
But it retains most of the ESA's regulatory teeth - including protection for habitat. Clinton officials and conservation leaders say this bill is much more acceptable.
A point of common ground for all partisans - conservative Westerners, more moderate lawmakers, the Clinton administration, and environmentalists - is that there ought to be incentives for private landowners to want to protect species. These include tax breaks, conservation easements, and inheritance law reforms.