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Gorton Sees Delay On Species Act

The Senate probably won’t have time this year to vote on legislation revamping the Endangered Species Act, Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., said Tuesday.

“I think the House may pass its bill this year, but I think it is more likely it will be debated early next year in the Senate,” Gorton said in an interview.

Gorton, a prominent critic of the wildlife protection law, previously had been optimistic the Senate would vote on his and others’ proposed sweeping changes in the act.

“By the time we finish this whole crisis over the budget, I think Congress is going to be ready to go home for the year,” he said.

Among other things, Gorton’s bill would let the secretaries of agriculture and interior decide whether it was in the national interest to save a species from extinction. Current law requires the government to do everything it can to make sure all species survive.

Gorton, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the interior, also said Congress would not approve any proposal President Clinton makes to repeal salvage logging legislation that Congress approved and Clinton signed into law.

Clinton said Saturday that the measure waiving environmental laws to expedite logging on national forests “may lead to grave environmental injury to chinook salmon and other wildlife and damage our rivers and streams. My administration will actively pursue a legislative remedy to correct this extreme result.”

The legislation he signed, he said, was intended to speed only those logging operations that did not violate environmental standards.