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Endangered Species Act Eyed for Change

Opponents of the Endangered Species Act (search) say the federal legislation protecting the sucker fish, the spotted owl and hundreds of other animals on the watch list has crippled industries and ravaged local economies.

Now, for the first time in decades, these foes see an opportunity for change with a poll showing that up to 80 percent of the public would be willing to consider changes to the landmark environmental law.

“What we are trying to do is change the act so it doesn’t have the conflicts with private property owners and at the same time does a better job at recovering species than we are currently doing,” said Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif.

The political fight is well under way, with conservatives lobbying the Western Governor’s Association for support. But at least one Western governor doesn’t agree with the proposed changes the way they’re currently written.

“The country wants protection of the environment and the Endangered Species Act, and I believe Congressman Pombo's initiative, while well intentioned, goes too far,” said Gov. Bill Richardson (search) of New Mexico, a Democrat.

Richardson supports modest revisions of the law. Environmentalists are against any changes to the act because they fear opponents will gut the policy in favor of urban sprawl and polluters.

Click in the video box above to see the complete story by FOX News' William La Jeunesse.