The bald eagle's exit from Endangered Species Act protection drew attention away from the watchdog agency that defends threatened species—and is in peril itself. The budget has been slashed, open jobs go unfilled, and the fate of hundreds of plant and animal species hangs in the balance. The LA Times looks at the troubled Fish and Wildlife Service.
"This administration has starved the endangered species' budget," says a wildlife advocate. Under President Bush, fewer new species have been declared endangered than during any other administration, and most of those were in response to legal action. Career conservationists operate in an atmosphere rife with accusations of high-level meddling—Dick Cheney's name has come up—cronyism, and conflict of interest. (Read more endangered species stories.)