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Agency extending monk seal habitat deadline, group says

An environmental group says the National Marine Fisheries Service is extending its own deadline for making a decision on habitat to protect Hawaiian monk seals.

The Center for Biological Diversity said Tuesday it’s clear that habitat in the main Hawaiian islands is essential for survival of the critically endangered animals.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration proposed designating areas on and around Hawaii’s most developed islands as protected areas for the species. It was in response to a petition filed by environmental groups.   

NOAA says it needs six more months to decide. A spokeswoman says the extra time will be used to analyze public comments.

Former Republican Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, who is running for U.S. Senate, has called the proposal insensitive and an example of government over-reach. 

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