BILLINGS, Mont. — Wildlife advocates sued federal officials Thursday in a bid for greater protections for monarch butterflies, northern spotted owls and eight other species inching toward possible extinction.

The move comes after federal officials have said the species named in the lawsuit need protections, but that other imperiled plants and animals have higher priority.

The Center for Biological Diversity asked a U.S. District Court in Washington to order the Fish and Wildlife Service to move immediately to grant the species protections under the Endangered Species Act.

Federal officials declared the monarch butterfly a candidate for protections in December, but said no action would be taken for several years because of the many other species needing protection.

The spotted owl of the Pacific Northwest has been in decline for decades as old growth forests disappear. It was rejected for an immediate upgrade to “endangered” status last year despite losing nearly 4 percent of its population annually.

Also included in the lawsuit were the eastern gopher tortoise of the Southeast, the Peñasco least chipmunk of New Mexico, a North Carolina snail known as magnificent ramshorn, the twistflower plant of south Texas and three mussel species — Texas fatmucket, Texas fawnsfoot and Texas pimpleback.

Interior Department spokesperson Tyler Cherry said the agency had no comment on the suit.

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