APNewsBreak: Judge backs deal on imperiled species

WASHINGTON (AP) ? A federal judge has approved a pair of sweeping settlements that could lead to endangered species protections for hundreds of animal and plant species by 2016.

Friday’s order by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan means the government must act on imperiled species ranging from the northern wolverine and Pacific walrus to dozens of snails, mollusks, butterflies and plants.

The order comes after the Obama administration reached deals with environmental groups that filed lawsuits challenging the government’s handling of 252 so-called “candidate species.” Those are animals and plants that scientists say need protection but that the government has lacked resources to address.

Some species have languished in bureaucratic limbo for decades.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assistant director Gary Frazer says the species all face possible extinction without government intervention.