Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan Jr. never gives up.

He's put together a task force to investigate ways to make the Endangered Species Act, due for renewal by Congress next year, more "flexible."Lujan has the idea - considered out of bounds by environmental groups - that economic consequences also should be considered when it comes to listing endangered species.

Lujan also questions whether an endangered species must be protected each and every place it's found - for example in different states.

He'd also like to see if it's possible to study the entire ecosystem in which a species lives instead of doing it on a species-by-species basis. This would occur before listing a species as endangered.

Lujan says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will have to return to the same ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest inhabited by the northern spotted owl to see if a species of salmon should also be protected.

Lujan is bringing some common sense to the frequently illogical extremism of environmental groups.

He's one of the few to point out problems with the Endangered Species Act. Lujan is a reasonable man who repeatedly calls attention to serious problems with the Endangered Species Act.

Lujan is being eminently practical when he says the economic cost of protecting supposedly endangered wildlife should be studied.

If we don't take such sensible precautions, saving a species may wipe out jobs for thousands of humans and permanently depress the economy of an entire region.

Saving a few hundred northern spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest has put 25,000 loggers on the endangered list.

Last month, the Fish and Wildlife Service decided the Mexican spotted owl is in danger in New Mexico and Arizona and should be protected. The number of jobs this will cost in those two economically depressed states hasn't been calculated.

Lujan says the changes he wants in the law are "moderate." As the law is now written, it can be used to stop any project environmentalists don't want.

He questions whether an endangered species must be protected every place it's found, which seems to me a logical inquiry.

For example, if unthreatened spotted owls were found in other places, it might be possible to spare the jobs of those Northwest loggers and save the area's economy.

That may seem reasonable and logical to many.

But to ideologues in the environmental movement its the rankest kind of heresy. Especially when they're able to use that part of the law to stop projects they find objectionable.

Best example is the Animas-La Plata water project planned for northwestern New Mexico and southwest Colorado. It's being stopped dead by the Colorado squawfish, a locally endangered species.

Twenty years ago, federal and state game and fish people were working hard to exterminate the squawfish and razorback sucker from streams in the area because they were considered "trash fish."

Now, the worthless squawfish has been declared "endangered," which will stop the long planned water proj-ect designed to provide water for area residents, including a couple of Indian tribes.

Practical skeptics might wonder why it's necessary to save a worthless pest of a fish in the first place.

But, aside from that, it turns out to be unneeded anyway, since squawfish are already thriving like the plague in streams all over Colorado. And not endangered.

This is ridiculous. To save a pest fish of no conceivable worth to halt a water project that will aid the economy of a whole region, while the species is in no danger!

Lujan makes sense. His is a voice crying out for reason and logic in a wilderness of environmental claptrap.