Hawaii Awarded $468,436 From U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Under Clean Vessel Act Grant Program

Funding supports clean waters and recreational boating

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today that more than $14.7 million will be awarded to 23 states under the Clean Vessel Act (CVA) grant program in 2013.

Fish and Wildlife

The first Clean Vessel Act awards were made in 1993. Since that time the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program has awarded more than $200 million to states for projects funding construction, replacement, renovation, and maintenance of facilities that assist recreational boaters in properly disposing of on-board septic waste.  The program also provides information and education on the importance, benefits, and availability of pump outs.

Hawaii – $468,436 The State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation plans to construct two new pumpout facilities at Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor and one new pumpout at Kewalo Basin, Honolulu, Island of Oahu.

This will increase the number of facilities available on the Island of Oahu by 50%. They will also replace existing pump-outs at Heeia Kea, Keehi and Waianae Small Boat harbors on the island of Oahu; Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor on the island of Kauai; and Lahaina Small Boat Harbor Public Loading Dock (North Face) on the island of Maui. The new peristaltic pumpouts will provide quicker pumpouts and will require less servicing. They will install remote monitoring devices on all new and replacement pump-outs. The State will couple construction with boater education.

“Clean Vessel Act grants are essential to ensure clean water and healthy environments that allow for recreational boating opportunities,” said Service Director Dan Ashe.  “The CVA program has a substantial economic impact on local communities, which is a win-win situation for conservation initiatives and businesses across America.”

Funds for the CVA program are provided annually from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust fund.  These funds are derived through the collection of fishing tackle manufacturer excise taxes and boat and fishing import duties as well as motorboat and small engine fuel taxes.  The program supports the user-pay, public-benefit cycle that has led to the successes of the Sport Fish Restoration programs. States apply for CVA funding and they or their partners provide matching funds to complete projects. Sub-grantees often include local municipalities and private marinas.

In addition to traditional on-dock pump outs, projects include pumpout boats that travel in designated harbors to make the sewage collection process more efficient and convenient. Some states  also install floating restrooms in areas where boaters congregate and no restrooms are available.

“The Clean Vessel Act is a critical tool in helping the states to maintain clean and healthy waters for people and wildlife alike,” said Assistant Director Hannibal Bolton of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. “The pump outs built through these funds ensure that clean drinking water, sustainable ecosystems, and healthy recreational areas will be accessible to the American people.”

For more information on the 2013 grant awards made today visit:
http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/GrantPrograms/CVA/CVA2013Funding.pdf

For more information on the CVA program visit:
http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/GrantPrograms/CVA/CVA.htm

Millerbirds Return to Laysan Island After 100-Year Absence

By Ken Foote

The sun beats down on a small rocky island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A lively brown song bird that weighs less than an ounce forages for insects among the low shrubs and bunch-grass. This nondescript bird is known as the Nihoa Millerbird (Acrocephalus familiaris kingi), and it is barely noticeable among the seabirds, insects, and other animal and plant species that inhabit the island.

The first fledgling Millerbird produced on Laysan in March 2012. Photo Credit: R. Kohley / American Bird Conservancy

The first fledgling Millerbird produced on Laysan in March 2012.
Photo Credit: R. Kohley / American Bird Conservancy

This extremely rare bird was one of the first bird species to be listed as endangered in 1967—preceding the present-day Endangered Species Act by six years. Until recently, the bird was found only on Nihoa Island. Nihoa Island is a rugged 155-acre (63-hectare) volcanic island, one of the many islands and atolls that make up the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands – part of the Papahānaumokuakea Marine National Monument – stretching 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) northwest from the island of Kaua’i.

Historically, there were two populations of Millerbirds, one on Laysan Island and one on Nihoa Island. The Laysan Millerbird (Acrocephalus familiaris familiaris), along with the Laysan Rail (Porzana palmeri) and Laysan Honeycreeper (Himatione sanguinea freethi), went extinct in the early 20th Century when the island was denuded by non-native rabbits and livestock. Thus, the Millerbirds on Nihoa were the only Millerbirds remaining anywhere on Earth.

Millerbird numbers on Nihoa fluctuate between 30 and 800 birds. This single, small population faces a high risk of extinction from catastrophes such as severe storms, droughts, fires, or accidental introduction of alien species such as rats, mosquitoes, and diseases such as avian pox and malaria. Establishing a second population on the 1,023-acre (415-ha) Laysan Island will reduce this risk by increasing the total population size and the distribution of the species.

Treacherous transfer of Millerbirds from Nihoa to zodiac during the 2012 translocation. Photo Credit: Ryan Hagerty / USFWS

Treacherous transfer of Millerbirds from Nihoa to zodiac during the 2012 translocation.
Photo Credit: Ryan Hagerty / USFWS

In 2011 and 2012, a team of dedicated scientists and volunteers undertook a monumental task of capturing and translocating, or moving, 50 Millerbirds. The birds were moved an incredible 650 miles (1,046 km), by sea, from Nihoa to Laysan Island. Two separate translocations were conducted; 24 birds were moved in 2011, and 26 in 2012 with scientists trying to maintain an equal sex ratio of males to females.

The release was the result of many years of research and detailed planning by biologists and resource managers, led by a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and American Bird Conservancy. The successful translocations mark the first time in nearly a century that Millerbirds have occupied Laysan Island. Today, we estimate over 38 fledglings have been produced on Laysan. The total island population is estimated to be over 63, and biologists are working to get a more exact count over the next few months.

As a co-manager of the Papahānaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proud to lead this project in collaboration with the American Bird Conservancy. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the University of New Brunswick, University of Hawai’i, Pacific Rim Conservation, Pacific Bird Conservation, the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Research Center, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs have also supported this effort.

Ken Foote, an information and education specialist in the Service’s Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, can be reached at ken_foote@fws.gov

Learn more about the translocation effort.

High Tech Cameras Reveal The Secret Lives Of Kauai’s Endangered Seabirds

High tech cameras placed at remote breeding sites are providing insight into the secret lives of Kauai’s endangered seabirds. As part of the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project (KESRP), which is a state and federally funded project under the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Forestry and Wildlife, in collaboration with the University of Hawaii Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, the 14 cameras were placed on Newell’s Shearwater and Hawaiian Petrel burrows during the breeding season last year to collect data on everything from the arrival of adults to the fledging of chicks.

Photo of two Newell’s Shearwaters at their burrow taken with an infra-red camera. Photo by Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project.

Photo of two Newell’s Shearwaters at their burrow taken with an infra-red camera. Photo by Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project.

“These cameras have provided us with a window into a side of the birds that we simply never see,” explained Dr. André Raine, KESRP coordinator. “Watching the birds returning to their burrows after a winter out at sea, preening each other at the burrow entrance or interacting with their chicks at night is really pretty special, but the cameras are also providing critical data to help save the birds from extinction.”

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The cameras are set on a trigger mechanism to take photos when something passes in front of the burrow entrance. Once the cameras are triggered, they take a rapid series of photos and only stop when the movement has ceased. This means that the cameras record birds entering or leaving their nest sites, or chicks exercising in front of the burrows throughout the breeding season. As the birds only come into their colonies at night, cameras are fitted with infrared flashes so that the birds are not disturbed.

“We’ve recorded birds from the moment they arrive on Kauai in March to the time their chicks depart in October to December,” Dr. Raine continued. “The cameras are a great way to collect data on a whole range of behaviors, such as when the chicks fledge and how often adults come to the burrows to feed their offspring. In this way we are increasing our understanding of exactly what these birds are up to while they are on our island.”

The cameras have also highlighted the threat of invasive species to these endangered seabirds, a problem that is facing Hawaii’s endemic wildlife throughout the archipelago. Cameras have filmed burrows being visited by both feral cats and rats throughout the study period, and have even captured the gruesome moment when a chick was eaten alive by a large rat.

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“One of the achievements of this work has been to highlight how vulnerable these birds are to introduced predators,” Dr. Raine said. “It doesn’t matter how remote the sites are, feral cats and rats are always present and these can have a dramatic impact on breeding colonies. The cameras showed that several of the burrows even had rat nests right at the burrow entrance and feral cats actively investigated burrows on multiple occasions.”

The collection of this type of data using the latest technology is important because Kaua’i holds 90 percent of the world’s population of the Newell’s Shearwater, making it vital for the global conservation of this species. The island also holds internationally important populations of the Hawaiian Petrel.  The data from these cameras is therefore invaluable in terms of guiding on-going introduced predator control efforts in remote montane colonies.

To see a selection of videos taken from these cameras, visit the newly launched Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project website at http://kauaiseabirdproject.org/

Lahaina Receives Federal Boating Infrastructure Grant

he U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced more than $11.2 million in competitive grants to 15 states for projects to support recreational boating through the Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program.  The Fish and Wildlife Service will also release approximately $2.4 million to 25 states, commonwealths, and territories willing to match a smaller, non-competitive grant program known as “BIG Tier 1” funding.

Fish and Wildlife

Grantees use Boating Infrastructure Grant funds to construct, renovate, and maintain facilities with features for transient boats (those staying 10 days or less) that are 26 feet or more in length and used for recreation. Grantees may also use funds to produce and distribute information and educational materials about the program and recreational boating.

“These grants, funded by fishing and boating enthusiasts, have helped communities across the nation build and enhance recreational boating facilities that provide recreational opportunities while supporting jobs and economic growth,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.  “This program is a win-win situation for recreational boaters, conservation initiatives and job creation.”

“The BIG Grants have major impacts – not only do cruising boaters get the benefit of facilities that they help to pay for, waterfront communities and their small businesses also get an economic boost from visitors who enjoy boating,” said Thom Dammrich, chairman of the Sport Fish and Boating Partnership Council and president of the National Marine Manufacturers’ Association.

For example, a BIG grant of nearly $1.5 million, matched with nearly $1 million in non-federal funding, will enable the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to partner with the Bucks County Riverfront Program to install 25 new day slips on the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Trenton, New Jersey. The ADA-compliant project, part of a larger effort to improve the waterfront in Bristol Borough, will also include new educational signage, lighting, and breakwater structures to protect the facility.

And in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a grant of nearly $1.3 million, matched by nearly $3.9 million in non-federal funding from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the City of Chattanooga, will go toward the construction or extension of guest dockage at four prominent locations along the south shore of the Tennessee River. Each location will include up to 10 slips, for a total of 40 new slips for eligible vessels.

Funding for the Boating Infrastructure Grant program comes from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, formerly known as the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, which boaters and manufacturers support through excise and other taxes on certain fishing and boating equipment and gasoline.

Projects receiving competitive grants are:

  • Shoal Bay Marina Redevelopment, Logan County, Ark. – BIG grant: $1,215,841; non-Federal match: $721,175; total project cost: $1,937,016
  • City of Rio Vista Guest Dock, Rio Vista, Calif. – BIG grant: $225,000; non-Federal match: $75,000; total project cost: $300,000
  • Thamesport Marina Transient Docks, New London, Conn. – BIG grant: $1,430,975; non-Federal match: $502,775; total project cost: $1,933,750
  • Gulfport Casino Dock Redevelopment, Gulfport, Fla. – BIG grant: $112,613; non-Federal match: $268,137; total project cost: $380,750
  • Madeira Beach Municipal Marina Redevelopment, Madeira Beach, Fla. – BIG grant: $322,516; non-Federal match: $499,550; total project cost: $822,066
  • Lahaina Roadstead Offshore Mooring Installation, Lahaina, Hawaii – BIG grant: $248,500; non-Federal match: $248,500; total project cost: $497,000
  • Belfast Harbor Waterfront Rehabilitation, Belfast, Maine – BIG grant: $120,897; non-Federal match: $120,897; total project cost: $241,795
  • Annapolis City Dock Improvement, Annapolis, Md. – BIG grant: $1,500,000; non-Federal match: $2,703,478; total project cost: $4,203,478
  • Seaport Landing Marina Transient Boat Access, Lynn, Mass. – BIG grant: $267,700; non-Federal match: $100,000; total project cost: $367,700
  • Port Austin State Harbor Dock Renovation, Port Austin, Mich. – BIG grant: $747,250; non-Federal match: $747,250; total project cost: $1,494,500
  • Ironton Riverfront Boat Ramp and Docks, Ironton, Ohio – BIG grant: $636,000; non-Federal match: $212,634; total project cost: $848,634
  • Port of Arlington Marine Fuel Station and Utility Upgrade, Arlington, Ore. – BIG grant: $190,191; non-Federal match: $129,809; total project cost: $320,000
  • Bristol Borough Waterfront Improvement, Bristol, Pa. – BIG grant: $1,492,195; non-Federal match: $999,355; total project cost: $2,491,550
  • Ann Street Public Pier Project, Newport, R.I. – BIG grant: $740,000; non-Federal match: $260,000; total project cost: $1,000,000
  • Downtown Chattanooga Transient Docks, Chattanooga, Tenn. – BIG grant: $1,285,868; non-Federal match: $3,857,607; total project cost: $5,143,475
  • Deltaville Marina Transient Pier, Deltaville, Va. – BIG grant: $743,891; non-Federal match: $261,367; total project cost: $1,005,258

For more information on each of the grant projects, visit http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/GrantPrograms/BIG/BIG_Funding.htm

Hawaii to Receive Over $6.7 Million for Fish and Wildlife Conservation/Recreation Projects

More than $882.4 million in excise tax revenues generated in 2012 by sportsmen and sportswomen will be distributed to state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies to fund fish and wildlife conservation and recreation projects across the nation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.

Hawaii's share

Hawaii’s share

These funds are made available to all 50 states and territories through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration programs. Revenues come from excise taxes generated by the sale of sporting firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing equipment and tackle, and electric outboard motors. Recreational boaters also contribute to the program through fuel taxes on motorboats and small engines.

“The sporting community has provided the financial and spiritual foundation for wildlife conservation in America for more than 75 years,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “Through these programs, hunters, anglers, recreational boaters and target shooters continue to fund vital fish and wildlife management and conservation, recreational boating access, and hunter and aquatic education programs.”

“The financial support from America’s hunting, shooting sports, fishing and boating community through their purchases of excise taxable equipment and hunting and fishing licenses is the lifeblood for funding fish and wildlife conservation; supporting public safety education; and opening access for outdoor recreation that benefits everyone,” said Jeff Vonk, President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. “Fish and wildlife can be conserved, protected and restored through science-based management and it is critical that all these taxes collected be apportioned to advance conservation efforts in the field.”

The Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program apportionment for 2013 totals $522.5 million. The Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program apportionment for 2013 totals $359.9 million. As a result of the statutorily required sequester, these apportionments have been reduced by 5.1 percent, or approximately $39.2 million. Additional Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration grant funding to the states has also been reduced, for a total sequestration-related reduction of approximately $44 million.

The Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program reimburses up to 75 percent of the cost of each eligible project while state fish and wildlife agencies contribute a minimum of 25 percent, generally using hunting and fishing license revenues as the required non-Federal match.

Funding is paid by manufacturers, producers, and importers, and distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program to each state and territory. For information on funding for each state, visit http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2013/pdf/Master_apport_table_Final_2013.pdf.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs have generated a total of more than $15.3 billion since their inception – in 1937 in the case of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program, and 1950 for the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program – to conserve fish and wildlife resources. The recipient fish and wildlife agencies have matched these program funds with more than $5.1 billion. This funding is critical to sustaining healthy fish and wildlife populations and providing opportunities for all to connect with nature.

Please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program website at http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/ for more information on the goals and accomplishments of these programs and for individual state, commonwealth, and territorial funding allocations.

New Research Underscores Vulnerability of Wildlife in Low-Lying Hawaiian Islands

If current climate change trends continue, rising sea levels may inundate low-lying islands across the globe, placing island biodiversity at risk. A new U.S. Geological Survey scientific publication describes the first combined simulations of the effects of sea-level rise and wave action in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, offering the most detailed and multifaceted assessment available of how island biodiversity may be affected by climate change.

USGS ReportThe publication, “Predicting Sea-Level Rise Vulnerability of Terrestrial Habitat and Wildlife of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands,” by Michelle H. Reynolds, Paul Berkowitz, Karen N. Courtot, Crystal M. Krause, Jamie Carter, and Curt Storlazzi is available online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2012/1182/.

Recent models predict a rise of approximately 1 meter in global sea level by 2100, with larger increases possible in parts of the Pacific Ocean. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), which extend 1,930 kilometers beyond the main Hawaiian Islands, are a World Heritage Site and part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. These islands – comprising the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, and Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary – support the largest tropical seabird rookery in the world, providing breeding habitat for 21 species of seabirds, four endemic land bird species and essential foraging, breeding or haul-out habitat for many other resident and migratory wildlife species.

“These magnificent seabirds spend the majority of their adult lives at sea: soaring vast distances over open water searching for food in an over-fished ocean. The one thing they cannot do at sea is reproduce,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “And now their breeding ground is in peril.”

The USGS team led by biologist Michelle H. Reynolds of the USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center modeled what is known as passive sea-level rise (excluding wave-driven effects such as wave flooding and erosion) for islands in this biologically important region. General climate models that predict a temperature rise of 1.8–2.6 degrees Celsius and an annual decrease in rainfall of 24.7–76.3 millimeters by 2100 were applied across the study area.  For the most biologically diverse low-lying island of Laysan, dynamic wave-driven effects on habitat and wildlife populations were modeled for a range of sea-level rise scenarios.

After collecting new high-resolution topographic data in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, the researchers modeled sea-level rise inundation, habitat loss, and calculated wildlife vulnerability. Given a passive sea-level rise of 1 meter, they found, about 4 percent of the land mass of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands will be lost. If sea level rises 2 meters, 26 percent of the land mass will be lost. On Laysan Island, within the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, impacts from storm waves as well as groundwater rise were found to greatly amplify the effects of sea-level rise: from 4.6 percent to 17.2 percent inundation in the 2-meter scenario, for instance. Thus habitat loss would be most dramatic in the wave-exposed coastal habitats and most devastating to species with global breeding distributions primarily on the low-lying Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, such as the Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes), Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis), Bonin Petrel (Pterodroma hypoleuca), Gray-backed Tern (Onychoprion lunatus), Laysan Teal (Anas laysanensis), Laysan Finch (Telespiza cantans), and Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi).

This publication may be a useful tool and a starting place for developing climate change mitigation/adaptation plans as well as future scientific studies for this important region.

 

15 Big Island Plants and Animals, Plus 19,000 Hawaiian Acres, Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed protection today for 15 species on the island of Hawaii, with 18,766 acres (29 square miles) of habitat. The decision stems from a 2011 settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity requiring the agency to speed protection decisions for 757 species around the country. Thirteen plants, a picture-wing fly and an anchialine pool shrimp were proposed for protection.

“Hawaii’s home to an amazing diversity of plants and animals, but many of them are on the razor’s edge of extinction. I’m thrilled to see these unique species being proposed for the Endangered Species Act protection that can save them,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist at the Center.

Seven of the 15 species being proposed for listing — five plants, the pool shrimp and the picture-wing fly — have been on the “candidate” waiting list since before 2004, when the Center petitioned for their federal protection.

anchialine pool shrimp

The anchialine pool shrimp lives only on the Big Island and nowhere else in the world; only five individuals of the species have ever been seen. Anchialine pools are land-locked bodies of water that have underground connections to the sea and show tidal fluctuations in water level. The pool shrimp is threatened by degraded water quality due to siltation, which harms the algae, bacteria and small invertebrates it feeds on. Its body is two inches long; it has two-inch antennae and eyestalks, but no eyes. One of the most primitive shrimp species in the world, it can only swim forward, whereas most shrimp can also swim backward.

picture-wing fly

The picture-wing fly was discovered in 1968. Adults are less than a quarter-inch in length and have brownish-yellow bodies, yellow legs and shiny, clear wings with prominent brown spots. They are dependent on one specific host plant to reproduce, laying their eggs only on decaying stems of Charpentiera plants. Adults live for one to two months. Historically there were five known sites for the fly, but today it survives in only two places, the Manuka Natural Area Reserve and the Olaa Forest Reserve. The fly is threatened by forces that harm its host plant, including browsing by goats, pigs and cattle; invasive plants; fire; drought; and hurricanes. It is also threatened by predation from non-native wasps.

The 13 plants being proposed for protection are threatened by habitat loss, agriculture, urban development, feral pigs and goats, invasive plants, wildfire, hurricanes and drought.

kookoolau

The Service is proposing 18,766 acres of “critical habitat” to protect the kookoolau — a yellow flower in the aster family — due to the imminent threat of urban development to 98 percent of the individuals known for this species. The habitat is also being designated to protect two previously listed plants, the wahinenohokula and the uhiuhi, that occur in the same lowland dry areas as the kookoolau. Approximately 55 percent of the area being proposed as critical habitat is already designated as critical habitat for 42 other protected plants and the Blackburn’s sphinx moth.

In addition to the seven candidate species, the Service is proposing to protect four plants that have been identified as the “rarest of the rare” by the Plant Extinction Prevention Program. They each have fewer than 50 individuals surviving in the wild and are in need of immediate action to conserve them. The Service is proposing to protect four additional plants at risk of extinction that occur in the same areas and face the same threats as the other proposed plants.

“The Endangered Species Act has been 99 percent effective at preventing the extinction of the plants and animals under its care. I’m hopeful its protection, coming in the nick of time, will be able to save the picture-wing fly, anchialine pool shrimp, and these unique Hawaiian plants,” said Curry.

Landmark Legal Agreement May Add Hawaiian Honeycreeper and 70 Other Hawaii Animals to Federal Endangered Species List

Media Release:

A landmark legal agreement was finalized today between the Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requiring the agency to make initial or final decisions on whether to add hundreds of imperiled plants and animals to the federal endangered species list by 2018.

In return, the Center will withdraw its legal opposition to a May 2011 agreement between the agency and another conservation group, which the Center argued was too weak, unenforceable and missing key species in need of protection.

The agreement was jointly submitted today to U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan (Washington, D.C.) for approval.

“Today’s agreement will fast-track protection for 757 of America’s most imperiled but least protected species. The walrus, wolverine, golden trout and Miami blue butterfly will go extinct if we don’t take action right away to save them,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Center wrote scientific listing petitions and/or filed lawsuits to protect the 757 species as part of its decade-long campaign to safeguard 1,000 of America’s most imperiled, least protected species. Spanning every taxonomic group, the species protected by today’s agreement include 26 birds, 31 mammals, 67 fish, 13 reptiles, 42 amphibians, 197 plants and 381 invertebrates.

They occur in all 50 states and several Pacific island territories. The top three states in the agreement are Alabama, Georgia and Florida, with 149, 121 and 115 species respectively. Hawaii has 70, Nevada 54, California 51, Washington 36, Arizona 31, Oregon 24, Texas 22 and New Mexico 18.

“The Southeast, West Coast, Hawaii and Southwest are America’s extinction hot spots,” said Suckling. “Most of the species lost in the past century lived there, and most of those threatened with extinction in the next decade live there as well.”

Individual species included in today’s agreement include the walrus, wolverine, Mexican gray wolf, New England cottontail rabbit, three species of sage grouse, scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper (‘I’iwi), California golden trout, Miami blue butterfly and Rio Grande cutthroat trout — as well as 403 southeastern river-dependent species, 42 Great Basin springsnails and 32 Pacific Northwest mollusks.

While today’s agreement encompasses nearly all the species on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s official list of “candidates” for Endangered Species Act protection, two-thirds of the species in the agreement (499) are not on the list. This corresponds with the conclusion of numerous scientists and scientific societies that the extinction crisis is vastly greater than existing federal priority systems and budgets.

“Scientists and conservationists have a critical role to play in identifying endangered species and developing plans and priorities to save them. The extinction crisis is too big — too pressing — to rely on government agencies alone,” said Suckling.

Lists of the 757 species broken down by state, taxonomy, name and schedule of protection are available at http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/species_agreement/index.html. Highlighted species are below.

Species Highlights

American wolverine: A bear-like carnivore, the American wolverine is the largest member of the weasel family. It lives in mountainous areas of the West, where it depends on late-spring snowpacks for denning. The primary threats to its existence are shrinking snowpacks related to global warming, excessive trapping and harassment by snowmobiles.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned to list the wolverine as an endangered species in 1994. It was placed on the candidate list in 2010. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2013 and finalize the decision in 2014 if warranted.

Pacific walrus: A large, ice-loving, tusk-bearing pinniped, the Pacific walrus plays a major role in the culture and religion of many northern peoples. Like the polar bear, it is threatened by the rapid and accelerating loss of Arctic sea ice and oil drilling.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it as an endangered species in 2007. It was placed on the candidate list in 2011. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2017 and finalize the decision in 2018 if warranted.

Mexican gray wolf: Exterminated from, then reintroduced to the Southwest, the Mexican gray wolf lives in remote forests and mountains along the Arizona/New Mexico border. It is threatened by legal and illegal killing, which has hampered the federal recovery program, keeping the species down to 50 wild animals.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned to list it as an endangered species separate from other wolves in 2009. It is not on the candidate list. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2012 and finalize the decision in 2013 if warranted.

Black-footed albatross: A large, dark-plumed seabird that lives in northwestern Hawaii, the black-footed albatross is threatened by longline swordfish fisheries, which kill it as bycatch.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned to list this albatross as an endangered species in 2004. It is not on the candidate list. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection, determine it does not qualify, or find that it is warranted but precluded for protection in 2011.

Rio Grande cutthroat trout: Characterized by deep crimson slashes on its throat — hence the name “cutthroat” — the Rio Grande cutthroat is New Mexico’s state fish. It formerly occurred throughout high-elevation streams in the Rio Grande Basin of New Mexico and southern Colorado. Logging, road building, grazing, pollution and exotic species have pushed it to the brink of extinction.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it as an endangered species in 1998. It was placed on the candidate list in 2008. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2014 and finalize the decision in 2015 if warranted.

403 Southeast aquatic species: The southeastern United States contains the richest aquatic biodiversity in the nation, harboring 62 percent of the country’s fish species (493 species), 91 percent of its mussels (269 species) and 48 percent of its dragonflies and damselflies (241 species). Unfortunately, the wholesale destruction, diversion, pollution and development of the Southeast’s rivers have made the region America’s aquatic extinction capital.

In 2010, the Center completed a 1,145-page, peer-reviewed petition to list 403 Southeast aquatic species as endangered, including the Florida sandhill crane, MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow, Alabama map turtle, Oklahoma salamander, West Virginia spring salamander, Tennessee cave salamander, black warrior waterdog, Cape Sable orchid, clam-shell orchid, Florida bog frog, Lower Florida Keys striped mud turtle, eastern black rail and streamside salamander.

Only 18 of Southeast aquatic species are on the candidate list. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will issue initial listing decisions on all 403 plants and animals in 2011.

Pacific fisher: A cat-like relative of minks and otters, the fisher is the only animal that regularly preys on porcupines. It lives in old-growth forests in California, Oregon and Washington, where it is threatened by logging.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list the fisher as an endangered species in 2000. It was placed on the candidate list in 2004. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2014 and finalize the decision in 2015 if warranted.

Cactus ferruginous pygmy owl: A tiny desert raptor, active in the daytime, the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl lives in southern Arizona and northern Mexico. It is threatened by urban sprawl and nearly extirpated from Arizona.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it as an endangered species in 1992. It was protected in 1997, then delisted on technical grounds in 2006. The Center repetitioned to protect it in 2007. It is not on the candidate list. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2011 and finalize the decision in 2012 if warranted.

42 Great Basin springsnails: Living in isolated springs of the Great Basin and Mojave deserts, springsnails play important ecological roles cycling nutrients, filtering water and providing food to other animals. Many are threatened by a Southern Nevada Water Authority plan to pump remote, desert groundwater to Las Vegas.

In 2009, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list 42 springsnails as endangered species, including the duckwater pyrg, Big Warm Spring pyrg and Moapa pebblesnail. None are on the candidate list. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will issue initial listing decisions on all 42 species in 2011.

Scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper (ʻIʻiwi):

Scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper (ʻIʻiwi): This bright-red bird hovers like a hummingbird and has long been featured in the folklore and songs of native Hawaiians. It is threatened by climate change, which is causing mosquitoes that carry introduced diseases — including avian pox and malaria — to move into the honeycreeper’s higher-elevations refuges. It has been eliminated from low elevations on all islands by these diseases.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it as an endangered species in 2010. It is not on the candidate list. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2016 and finalize the decision in 2017 if warranted.

Ashy storm petrel: A small, soot-colored seabird that lives off coastal waters from California to Baja, Mexico, the ashy storm petrel looks like it’s walking on the ocean surface when it feeds. It is threatened by warming oceans, sea-level rise and ocean acidification.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it as an endangered species in 2007. It is not on the candidate list. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2013 and finalize the decision in 2014 if warranted.

Greater and Mono Basin sage grouse: Sage grouse are showy, ground-dwelling birds that perform elaborate mating dances, with males puffing up giant air sacks on their chests. The Mono Basin sage grouse lives in Nevada and California. The greater sage grouse lives throughout much of the Interior West. Both are threatened by oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing, development and off-road vehicles.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned to list the Mono Basin sage grouse as an endangered species in 2005. It was placed on the candidate list in 2010. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2013 and finalize the decision in 2014 if warranted.

The greater sage grouse was petitioned for listing in 2002 and placed on the candidate list in 2010. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2015 and finalize the decision in 2016 if warranted.

Miami blue butterfly: An ethereal beauty native to South Florida and possibly the most endangered insect in the United States, the Miami blue was thought extinct after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 but rediscovered in 1999. It is threatened by habitat loss and pesticide spraying.

It was petitioned for listing as an endangered species in 2000 and placed on the candidate list in 2005. The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it on an emergency basis in 2011. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2012 and finalize the decision in 2013 if warranted.

Oregon spotted frog: The Oregon spotted frog lives in wetlands from southernmost British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to northernmost California. It is threatened by habitat destruction and exotic species.

The Oregon spotted frog was placed on the candidate in 1991. The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it as an endangered species in 2004. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection (or determine it does not qualify) in 2013 and finalize the decision in 2014 if warranted.

32 Pacific Northwest mollusks: The Pacific Northwest is home to a unique diversity of mollusks found nowhere else on Earth. With colorful names like the evening fieldslug, cinnamon juga and masked duskysnail, these species recycle nutrients, filter water and provide important prey for birds, amphibians and other animals. Many species threatened by logging, pollution and urban sprawl.

In 2008, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list 32 Washington, Oregon and Northern California mollusks as endangered species. None are on the candidate list. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will issue initial listing decisions on all 32 species in 2011.

Hawaii’s List:

Hawaii

A’e
Aiea
Ala’ala’wai’nui’
Alani (Melicope christophersenii)
Alani (Melicope hiiakae)
Alani (Melicope makahae)
Anchialine pool shrimp (Metabetaeus lohena)
Anchialine pool shrimp (Palaemonella burnsi)
Anchialine pool shrimp (Procaris hawaiana)
Anchialine pool shrimp (Vetericaris chaceorum)
‘Anunu
Awikiwiki
Band-rumped storm petrel, Hawaii population
Blackline megalagrion damselfly
Bracted phyllostegia
Christella boydiae
Crimson Hawaiian damselfly
‘Ena’ena
Haha (Cyanea asplenifolia)
Haha (Cyanea calycina)
Haha (Cyanea kunthiana)
Haha (Cyanea lanceolata)
Haha (Cyanea obtusa)
Haha (Cyanea tritomantha)
Ha’iwale (Cyrtandra filipes)
Ha’iwale (Cyrtandra kaulantha)
Ha’iwale (Cyrtandra oxybapha)
Ha’iwale (Cyrtandra sessilis)
Hala pepe (Pleomele fernaldii)
Hala pepe (Pleomele forbesii)
Hawaiian fescue
Holei
Hulumoa
Kampuaa’a
Kaulu
Kolea (Myrsine fosbergii)
Kolea (Myrsine vaccinioides)
Ko’oko’olau (Bidens amplectens)
Ko’oko’olau (Bidens campylotheca ssp. paihoiensis)
Ko’oko’olau (Bidens campylotheca ssp. pentamera)
Ko’oko’olau (Bidens conjuncta)
Ko’oko’olau (Bidens micrantha ssp. ctenophylla)
Kopiko
Lanai tree snail (Partulina semicarinata)
Lanai tree snail (Partulina variabilis)
Makou (Ranunculus hawaiensis)
Makou (Ranunculus mauiensis)
Many-flowered phyllostegia
Ma’oli’oli (Schiedea pubescens)
Ma’oli’oli (Schiedea salicaria)
Nanu
Newcomb’s tree snail
Nohoanu (Geranium hanaense)
Nohoanu (Geranium hillebrandii)
Oceanic Hawaiian damselfly
Ohe
Orangeblack Hawaiian megalagrion damselfly
Platydesma cornuta var. cornuta
Platydesma cornuta var. decurrens
Pomace fly
Popolo
Reedgrass (Calamagrostis expansa)
Reedgrass (Calamagrostis hillebrandii)
Remy pilokea
Scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper
Stenogyne cranwelliae
Takeuch’s lip fern
Wawae ‘iole (Microlepia strigosa var. mauiensis)
Wawae ‘iole (Phlegmariurus stemmermanniae)
Wekiu bug

I Can Handle Coqui Frogs… But Keep Them Damn Snakes Out of Hawaii

Media Release:

It was one of the first evening classes since arriving in Guam. Suddenly there was a snake, just six inches away, tongue out, staring coldly into his eyes. Raymond McGuire, Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife’s coqui control coordinator, later realized his work capturing coqui frogs on the Big Island had helped him spot the Brown Tree Snake (BTS) which can be nearly invisible outdoors.

Raymond Pulling a snake out of his trap

Raymond Pulling a snake out of his trap

McGuire was one of nine Pacific island-based personnel, including several from Hawaii Invasive Species Committees, sent to Guam for a three-week training led by James Stanford, BTS rapid response coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey.

According to Page Else, Big Island Invasive Species Committee public outreach specialist, the impact of the Brown Tree Snake — which first invaded Guam in WWII — has been very costly to that island territory’s economic, ecological and social environment. She added it would cause similar problems for Hawaii.

A snake

A snake

“These snakes are frequent flyers and somehow know to crawl into airplane wheel wells or cargo holds. Without constant airport inspections, Hawaii is sure to be infiltrated,” Else said recently. “Snake populations would rapidly establish in Hawaii, with rats, mice, birds and lizards as plentiful food sources. The threat is even more of a concern now due to the military base buildup on Guam and the current constraints on government budgets.”

Christy Leppanen, until recently the Honolulu-based state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ invasive species specialist, is the newly appointed Invasive Species Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This summer, she will be moving to Saipan to make sure, as Leppanen tells it, “the Brown Tree Snake doesn’t make it to Hawaii.”

Leppanen joined McGuire and Shawn Okumura of the Big Island Invasive Species Committee in the BTS training in Guam. McGuire and Okumura said they felt the training was worthwhile, although arduous. The students received daily classroom instruction in the mornings and four hours each night of field training in finding and capturing the BTS.

The first night in the field, a small snake bit into Shawn's leather glove

The first night in the field, a small snake bit into Shawn's leather glove

During the evening field session, the participants entered snake enclosures full of vegetation and trees to count the number of snakes. Initially, McGuire found it hard to coax himself to grab the snakes without hesitation. The duration of three weeks’ training helped him conquer that challenge. He learned to use the snakes’ scales and coloring as cues. The BTS’s scales shimmered in the light and sometimes – but not always – their eyes shined. BTS can vary in color from olive to dark brown and the older snakes often have yellow bellies.

By the end of the three weeks of training, McGuire had caught 15 snakes with hand tools and many more in traps. Okumura earned the record for most hand-captured snakes in one evening: seven.

Shawn and his large snake

Shawn and his large snake

Trapped BTS were bad-tempered, according to McGuire. Each participant was responsible for 10 traps that they checked every other day. The density of Guam’s BTS population became apparent as the group captured 70 snakes from a three-acre parcel one night, only to return two days later and capture another 60.

Working in teams of two, the participants learned to maneuver the snakes without frightening them, coaxing them onto branches where they could be captured. One trick they were taught was to thump a tree to get the BTS to descend from the upper branches.

Gurney Amore and Shawn Okumura holding a large snake

Gurney Amore and Shawn Okumura holding a large snake

According to the trainer, BTS are only mildly venomous and are not aggressive in the wild but quickly realize when they are being hunted. For children, a bite can result in a hospital visit but adults are usually not affected, the trainer said.

Okumura and McGuire deliberately allowed themselves to get bit, to make sure they were not allergic. “It didn’t hurt, even though the snakes try hard and chew strongly,” McGuire reported.

Obviously, the BTS is a potential threat to Hawaii’s environment but it is not the only reptilian threat, according to Else. Other snake species have been smuggled into Hawaii, despite it being against the law to do so. “Many people do not understand the impact snake populations could pose to our economy and ecosystems,” Else said. “It is illegal to bring a snake into the state but there have been over 300 credible snake sightings in the past 25 years, with only 100 recovered.”

The BIISC representative in Hilo said that designated state and federal employees continue to train and guard Hawaii against invasion by snakes and other biological threats. “We’re glad to have our ‘snake warriors’ ready to protect our island,” she said.

She then urged anyone who spots a snake to immediately call the Big Island Invasive Species Committee hotline at 961-3299 or the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife at 974-4221