The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected 157,000 acres of critical habitat for 125 species of plants and animals from the Hawaiian islands of Molokai, Maui and Kahoolawe.
The species range from plants like Haleakala silversword; the state flower, mao hau hele (Hibiscus brackenridgei); and bird-pollinated lobelias as well as a tree snail and striking forest birds like the Akohekohe or crested honeycreeper. Invasive species, habitat loss and the effects from introduced pigs, goats and deer are the primary threats to these species.
“Critical habitat will speed restoration efforts for many of these imperiled species so I’m glad to see that happen,” said Loyal Mehrhoff, endangered species recovery director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Endangered Species Act continues to save hundreds of Hawaiian species from extinction and can be a significant force to save these species too.”
With more endangered species than any other state, Hawaii continues to be on the front line of the extinction crisis. The 135 species addressed in today’s rule include two birds, three snails and 130 plants. However, only 125 species actually received critical habitat. The final rule excluded critical habitat for 10 species. A total of 84,892 acres were excluded from critical habitat because they are included in management plans and agreements thought to benefit these species. An additional 29,170 acres were removed from critical habitat.
“The lack of designated critical habitat for these species is a concern if the management agreements do not hold up or are ineffective,” said Mehrhoff. “We’re also concerned with the removal of 9,800 acres of lowland rainforest from critical habitat designation on Maui.”