Rescuing Pygmy Rabbits

Could this be an example of the "new tone" in Washington that President Bush seeks?

On Wednesday, his Interior secretary, Gale Norton, and four environmental groups bypassed a set of costly and time-wasting lawsuits and agreed on a quick action plan to protect 29 vanishing animal and plant species, such as the pygmy rabbit of Washington State and the Carson wandering skipper butterfly of California.

This surprise success at mediation helps free up money to better implement the Endangered Species Act (ESA), while quickly listing many species in contention. But it also shocked environmentalists who had thought the worst of Secretary Norton.

Finding middle ground between left and right was to be Mr. Bush's trademark as president. So far, he's done that on only a few contentious issues, such as education.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the ESA, has been deluged with lawsuits by conservation groups, extending back into the Clinton administration. This agreement could become a model for resolving those cases quickly, achieving some balance between the need to protect endangered species and human needs through constructive consultation.

Property owners whose land includes endangered species need a seat at the table in Washington, just as much as animal-rights activists.

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