Imperiled species deal faces court challenge

By MATTHEW BROWN | May 16, 2011 | 1:28 PM EDT

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An environmental group is challenging a proposed settlement that would require the Obama administration to consider federal protections for hundreds of imperiled animals and plants.

The Center for Biological Diversity on Monday asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to put the settlement on hold.

The Tucson, Ariz., group says the deal announced last week between the administration and Denver-based WildEarth Guardians is flawed and was hatched in secret.

The center is a plaintiff in a related case. That could give it legal leverage to influence the settlement.

The deal would address a backlog of 251 imperiled species the government has said it lacks the resources to help. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also would resolve petitions seeking protections on approximately 600 additional species.

The center contends the settlement left out important species and is not enforceable.

Court approval of the deal is pending.