Existing federal, state, and local laws involving conservation and/or recovery of plant taxa vulnerable to extinction or extirpation have many weaknesses, some of which have been discussed above. Since the federal Endangered Species Act is the corner stone law and model, improving environmental legislation at all levels must begin with maintaining or even strengthening the Act. Indeed, plant species should be afforded the same level of protection as animal species, so that the "taking" of rare plants on nonfederal lands and the destruction of "critical habitat" of rare plants can be more appropriately regulated. Similarly, the criteria for listing in the original version of the Act, based solely on biological considerations, should be restored; subsequent amendments to include consideration of economic factors have very substantially weakened the list listing process as it now stands. While provisions for initiation of the listing procedure by private petition are available, the establishment of an impartial nongovernmental panel of experts to participate in the listing process (comparable to the role of the state's Endangered Plant Advisory Council) might expedite the process and reduce some of the recent pressures that have been applied to the Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials, and associated political appointees. State laws should be similarly rationalized to provide protection for the habitat of state-listed endangered and threatened species, and to aid the recovery of rare plants. State legislation should be enacted to address, minimally, the following four items:
Changes to legislation at all levels must occur within the widest possible context of information availability and public debate.
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