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The Endangered Species Act of 1973 has helped in the recovery of some plants and animals, but many more are threatened with destruction. Meanwhile, the fight over the northern spotted owl and Pacific Northwest salmon has focused attention on the economic costs of protecting habitats. Here is where environment and economy meet most graphically, and when this occurs there is sure to be political struggle. Should the landmark species-protection legislation be amended? And how is the fight over preserving na tive forests to be resolved? BUSH

Recently told Northwest timber workers "it's time to put people before owls." His administration has resisted efforts to set aside spotted owl habitat, but has been forced to do so by federal judges. In one case, a Bush-appointed panel called "the God squad" voted to override the Endangered Species Act in approving timber cutting. Bush also wants to see the act amended so that economic impact is given greater weight in listing threatened or endangered species. The act is up for reauthorization this year,

and Bush says he will not go along unless such changes are made.

At the same time, Bush officials recently announced the phased ending of all clear-cutting on federal timber lands. The president also wants to continue a federal program which helps communities plant millions of young trees. But he does not approve special job- retraining funds for timber workers. CLINTON

Pledges to "preserve our ancient forests for their scientific and ecological importance." As part of this, he says, listings under the Endangered Species Act should be made solely on the basis of biological determinations. This is one reason why the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club have endorsed Clinton over Bush.

At the same time, he says, the debate must move beyond "jobs versus owls," and he promises to "shatter the false choice between environmental protection and economic growth." As a first step in ending the legal logjam, Clinton said recently, he would convene a "forest summit" and "take a constructive, hands-on role in seeking resolution of the crisis" over timber policies in Oregon, Washington, and California. He favors more federal help in retraining those whose jobs may be lost because of endangered sp ecies protection. PEROT

Says, "Conservation makes basic economic sense." He does not have a formal position on the Endangered Species Act, but does propose to "stop subsidizing inefficient, environmentally destructive activities in the mining and timber industries that promote private gain at public expense."

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