The Obama administration is taking steps to extend new protections to a list of imperiled animals and plants that reads like a manifest for Noah's Ark — from the melodic golden-winged warbler, to the slimy American eel and the tiny Texas kangaroo rat. Compelled by recent legal settlements, the effort in part targets species mired in bureaucratic limbo even as they inch toward possible extinction.

With a Friday deadline to act on more than 700 cases, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service already has advanced more than 500 species toward potential new protections.

Observers say that's a breakthrough for a program criticized by conservatives and liberals alike as cumbersome. Most of the decisions are preliminary. Roughly 40 species failed to make the cut, including plains bison and Utah's Gila monster.

Story from AP