‘I‘iwi Receives Protection Under the Endangered Species Act

Once one of the most common forest birds in the Hawaiian Islands, the ‘i‘iwi, also known as the scarlet honeycreeper, will be protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that listing was warranted based on a review of the best information available for the ‘i‘iwi, gained through exhaustive research, public comments and independent scientific peer reviews.

In the past, ‘i‘iwi could be found from the coastal lowlands where they foraged for food to the high mountain forests where they nested. Today, ninety percent of the ‘i‘iwi population is confined to a narrow band of forest on East Maui and the windward slopes of the island of Hawaii, between 4,265 and 6,234 feet (1,300 and 1,900 meters) in elevation. The birds are virtually gone from the islands of Lanai, Oahu, Molokai and west Maui, while the population on Kauai is in steep decline.

“In recent years, the ‘i‘iwi population has been in sharp decline, due to threats from habitat loss, invasive species and avian diseases, particularly avian malaria,” said Mary Abrams, project leader for the Service’s Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office. “These threats have affected all forest birds, not just the ‘i‘iwi. Conservation that benefits the ‘i‘iwi will undoubtedly benefit other Hawaiian forest birds.”

Avian malaria, carried by invasive mosquitos, is the primary driver in the decline in of the ‘i‘iwi population, and has already caused the decimation of dozens of other Hawaiian forest birds. The disease kills approximately ninety-five percent of infected ‘i‘iwi. Mosquitos, which are not native to the Hawaiian Islands, breed and thrive at lower and warmer elevations where they infect birds like the ‘i’iwi with avian malaria and pox.

“‘I‘iwi have virtually disappeared from any habitat where mosquitoes are found,” said Abrams. “This has caused their range to shrink dramatically – they are almost entirely limited to higher elevation ‘ohi‘a forests for their habitat, dietary, and nesting needs.

Higher and cooler elevation ‘ohi‘a forests, where mosquitoes do not thrive, remain the only habitat for the ‘i‘iwi, but even those areas are under threat. As temperatures rise, mosquitoes, and the avian diseases they carry, are able to survive at higher elevations and spread upwards into the mountains, further constricting the ‘i‘iwi’s range.

‘I‘iwi are dependent for their survival on forests of native ‘ohi‘a. On the island of Hawaii, home to 90 percent of the remaining ‘i‘iwi population, those ‘ohi‘a forests have been under attack from rapid ‘ohi‘a death, an invasive tree pathogen.

“Working with the state, our conservation partners and the public will be crucial as we work to recover the ‘i‘iwi, said Abrams. “The Service is committed to building on our record of collaborative conservation to protect Hawaii’s native species.”

The Service’s final listing rule will be published in the Federal Register on Sept 20, 2017, and will become effective on Sept 20, 2017. Next steps include development of a recovery plan, which will be bolstered by input from other federal and state agencies, other conservation partners and the public.

More information, including the final listing, can be found at http://www.fws.gov/pacificislands/.

Navy Issues Record of Decision for Hawaii-Southern California Training and Testing Environmental Impact Statement

The U.S. Navy has issued a Record of Decision (ROD) for the Hawaii-Southern California Training and Testing (HSTT) Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (EIS/OEIS).

A Navy ship at Pearl Harbor last week.

A Navy ship at Pearl Harbor last week.

Following several years of research, environmental analysis, and public involvement, the Navy has chosen Alternative 2, the Preferred Alternative described in the HSTT Final EIS/OEIS, to accomplish the Proposed Action. This alternative includes establishment of new range capabilities, adjustments to the types and levels of training and testing and modifications to existing capabilities.

The Navy’s Proposed Action is to conduct training and testing activities – which will include the use of active sonar and explosives – throughout the in-water areas around the Hawaiian Islands, off the coast of Southern California, in the transit corridor between Hawaii and Southern California, and at Navy pierside locations. The Proposed Action also includes sonar maintenance and gunnery exercises conducted concurrently with ship transits as well as pierside testing conducted as part of overhaul, modernization, maintenance and repair activities at Navy piers located in Hawaii and Southern California.

“This EIS was developed with the best available science and will enable the Navy to continue training and testing in Hawaii and Southern California while minimizing potential injury to the environment, as we have safely done for more than 60 years,” said Alex Stone, senior environmental planner for the U.S. Pacific Fleet and HSTT EIS project manager. “This training and testing is essential for the fleet to fulfill its mission of defending the nation and the global commons and leading America’s rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

The Navy prepared the EIS/OEIS to assess potential environmental impacts from its training and testing activities and to support authorizations, permits and consultations required under the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and other relevant statutes.

The ROD is now available to the public. The document and the HSTT Final EIS/OEIS can be found online at www.HSTTEIS.com.


Navy is Renewing Authorizations That Will Enable Them to Continue to Train and Test Live Sonar and Explosives at Sea

Rear Admiral Kevin R. Slates

Rear Admiral Kevin R. Slates

By Rear Adm. Kevin R. Slates
Director, Chief of Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division

The Navy is renewing authorizations that will enable us to continue to train and test live sonar and explosives at sea for another five years (2019). The process of renewing authorizations involves analyzing the possible effects of training and testing and making that data publicly available in the form of the Hawaii-Southern California Training and Testing environmental impact statement (HSTT EIS) and the Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing environmental impact statement (AFTT EIS).

Some of the information in those EISs has been misrepresented and exaggerated. Lost in the discussion during a recent meeting of the California Coastal Commission is this fact: the best available science—and the Navy’s long track record of conducting similar training and testing—indicate our proposed activities will continue to have negligible effects on marine mammal populations. For a better understanding of these issues, read what several well-respected marine scientists have to say.

Navy Seal

Each EIS includes numbers estimating marine mammal exposures to sonar or explosives training and testing. Those numbers are based on mathematical modeling that assumes the maximum exposure/worst case scenarios, and are often mistakenly cited with alarm by people who do not recognize or accept that:

  • Live sonar and explosives training prepares Sailors to succeed in combat. The threats our Sailors face in the world’s hot spots are not restricted to convenient times or places, nor can simulators or inert weapons fully prepare them for those threats. That is why our training must be both broad and realistic.
  • Exposure to sonar does not equate to injury. Laws such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) define human impacts to marine mammals in degrees, ranging from simply hearing a sound, to mild behavioral effects, to injury and mortality.  The scientific analysis indicates that while marine mammals may be exposed to sonar during Navy training and testing, the vast majority (if not all) of marine mammals that are exposed will not be injured in any way. Animals may react to the sound, or move away, but research shows that they are likely to return quickly and resume their normal activities. Claims that the Navy is harming millions of marine mammals are ignoring this fact.
  • Our analysis overestimates the impact our activities have on marine mammals. The Navy thoroughly analyzes all of the at-sea training and testing activities, we are planning for the five-year period of our permits from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). With NMFS concurrence, we use a mathematical model to estimate the total number of marine mammal exposures that may result from those activities. That model, which uses the best available science, estimates potential for injuries or mortalities in less than .05 percent (five in 10,000) of the marine mammal exposures associated with our activities. It does not account for avoidance actions that marine mammals are likely to take in response to our activities, or protective measures (see below) which lessen marine mammal exposure to potentially harmful activities. The reality is the impact of Navy training and testing activity on marine mammals is likely to be significantly less than what our permit requests capture.
  • The EIS numbers do not take into account the protective measures (mitigations) the Navy adopts whenever we conduct sonar or explosives training or testing. These measures include using trained marine mammal lookouts; employing aircraft and underwater listening systems to scan for marine mammals; establishing buffer zones to reduce or halt sonar transmissions when we detect marine mammals near our ships; and software tools that delineate what training and testing events we can undertake in areas associated with marine mammal activity. We developed these measures in conjunction with NMFS  and re-evaluate them annually.
  • These proposed activities are not new.  The Navy has trained and tested in these areas for more than six decades, and there has been no evidence of extensive impacts to marine mammal populations as a result. The EISs do account for increases in training and testing, as well as testing of new and upgraded systems, but these activities will continue to have negligible impacts. Some of the additional training and testing might not even occur, especially in light of current and future budget restrictions. But we need to plan for the possibility that they could.
  • Sonar and explosives training have been linked to only a handful of strandings, affecting a few dozen animals over the past 17 years. We learned from these incidents.  The March 2000 stranding in the Bahamas was a major factor behind the Navy’s decision to implement an at-sea environmental policy that requires comprehensive analysis and documentation for our training activities. Similarly, a March 2011 incident in which three dolphins were killed when they swam into the scene of explosives training near San Diego resulted in safer procedures for conducting such training. We sincerely regret those instances where our activities have led to marine mammal deaths, and have since made great strides in understanding how our actions affect marine mammals. Additionally, we have become a world leader in funding marine mammal research, dedicating more than $100 million to such research in the past five years.

The Navy cannot guarantee that our training and testing activities will have zero effects on marine mammals, but for that very reason, we justify our requirements to, and ultimately receive our permits from, the fisheries service. The experts at NMFS will only issue permits if they are confident our proposed activities will have a negligible impact on marine life — and that is exactly what NMFS has determined in its proposed final rule for the Hawaii-Southern California and Atlantic Coast/Gulf of Mexico areas.

Navy Tag

We strive to be responsible stewards of the environment as we support America’s security and prosperity. I sincerely hope those interested in these issues will focus on the science and the facts, and choose to ignore emotional, non-factual statements.


NOAA Announces Rules to Protect False Killer Whales off Hawaii

Measures reduce bycatch in longline fisheries; protect the insular population from extinction

Complying with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and two federal court orders, today NOAA Fisheries announced two actions to protect false killer whales in the Pacific Islands.  False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens), are members of the dolphin family and, though naturally uncommon, are found worldwide. As top predators, false killer whales play an important role in the biodiversity of the oceans by helping maintain balance within the ecosystem.

A False Killer Whale and her baby

Rule to Reduce Bycatch under the Marine Mammal Protection Act

Under the MMPA, NOAA Fisheries is establishing measures to reduce incidental catch of two stocks of false killer whales in the Hawaii-based commercial longline fisheries. The MMPA requires the development of take reduction plans for certain marine mammal stocks where there is frequent or occasional bycatch of marine mammals in commercial fisheries.  False killer whales in waters around Hawaii are incidentally caught in the Hawaii-based tuna and swordfish longline fisheries and have adapted to take bait and fish off longline fishing hooks, which can cause them to become hooked or entangled. Currently, the bycatch of two false killer whale stocks, the Hawaii Pelagic and Main Hawaiian Islands Insular stocks, exceed the allowable levels established by the MMPA.

“The steps NOAA Fisheries is taking today will help mitigate the impact on these populations of false killer whales from accidental bycatch by longline fishing,” said Sam Rauch, NOAA’s deputy assistant administrator for fisheries. “NOAA worked closely with fishermen and stakeholders to develop scientifically-based and common-sense solutions to reduce the unintended catch of these mammals. We look forward to continuing our conversations with fishermen and others on bycatch reduction efforts.”

In 2010, NOAA Fisheries convened a take reduction team of government, conservation, academic, and industry stakeholders to develop recommendations to reduce false killer whale interactions in Hawaii’s commercial longline fisheries.

After careful consideration of the team’s recommendations, NOAA Fisheries published a proposed take reduction plan in 2011. NOAA Fisheries revised several aspects of the plan in response to public comments and additional analyses. The final plan requires the use of specific fishing hooks, implements closed fishing areas, and requires fishermen to receive training and certification in ways to release false killer whales that are incidentally caught. NOAA is under a court order to issue the final plan by November 30.

NOAA Fisheries will continue to partner with state agencies, conservation organizations, and the fishing industry to find ways to further reduce bycatch of false killer whales without unduly hampering fishing activities.

Complying with the Endangered Species Act and a court order to issue a final listing determination, NOAA Fisheries today is listing the Main Hawaiian Islands insular population of false killer whales as an endangered distinct population segment to protect it from possible extinction. The ESA defines an endangered species as “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whales, which are found in and around the waters of Hawaii’s eight main islands, face a number of threats, including their small population (estimated at only 151 individuals) and low genetic diversity, as well as hooking and entanglement in fisheries. Surveys conducted by several independent researchers indicate the population has been in decline for at least the past two decades. In taking this action, NOAA reviewed a range of factors, including the population’s risk of going extinct based on its small numbers, threats facing the population, and current efforts to protect the population. NOAA is currently under a court order to issue the final listing determination by December 10.

“NOAA Fisheries used the best data and scientific information available to make this determination,” continued Rauch. “Based on the whales’ small population size, low genetic diversity, and other factors, it became clear to list the Main Hawaiian Islands insular population under the ESA to protect them for future generations and to protect biodiversity in our oceans.”

NOAA Fisheries will continue to monitor the status of the Main Hawaiian Islands insular population of false killer whales through periodic surveys and assessments. NOAA Fisheries will also consider whether to propose designating critical habitat for the population, and will develop a recovery plan with actions to conserve the species. Finally, through the ESA consultation process, NOAA Fisheries will work with federal agencies to ensure that projects or activities that they fund, authorize, or carry out will not jeopardize the continued existence of the listed false killer whale population.

To read the ESA status review, MMPA stock assessment, and final ESA and MMPA actions, visit http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/PRD/prd_false_killer_whale.html

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels at http://www.noaa.gov/socialmedia/.

On the Web: http://www.fpir.noaa.gov

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Limits on Sea Turtle Deaths in Hawaii’s Longline Fishery

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision issued Wednesday, upheld a federal district court settlement limiting the number of loggerhead and critically endangered leatherback sea turtles that can be caught by Hawaii’s longline swordfish fishery. The settlement responded to a lawsuit brought by Turtle Island Restoration Network, the Center for Biological Diversity and KAHEA challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s 2009 decision to nearly triple the number of sea turtles the fishery could catch. The settlement rolled back the limit to prior levels. Wednesday’s decision rejected an appeal by the fishing industry, which sought to invalidate the agreement.

Courtesy of the Hawai'i Island Hawksbill Turtle Recovery Project

Said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff: “We’re glad the federal appeals court upheld the temporary sea turtle protections we won with the consent decree, but the high level of sea turtle harm NMFS is now proposing may well be worse than the previous rule.  NMFS seems to be raising the limits to accommodate the longliners rather than to ensure that the species aren’t driven to extinction, as the law requires.”

“Hawaii’s public-trust ocean resources have to be better managed for our collective best interest, and not just the interests of this commercial fishery,” said KAHEA Board President Kealoha Pisciotta. “The 9th Circuit decision is a victory not just for the turtles, but for Hawaii’s people who rely on a healthy, functioning ocean ecosystem. We can’t rest as long as federal fishery managers continue to allow unacceptable levels of harm to the few sea turtles remaining in the ocean.”

Turtle Island Restoration Network, Center for Biological Diversity and KAHEA sued the National Marine Fisheries Service over its decision to increase, from 17 to 46, the number of loggerhead sea turtles the fishery could catch in a year before being required to shut down. At the same time, the Fisheries Service was considering increasing protections for loggerheads under the Endangered Species Act by upgrading it from “threatened” to “endangered.” The plaintiffs and the agency agreed to settle the case by rolling back the number of loggerheads allowed to be caught to 17 while the agency decided whether to uplist the species and prepared a new analysis of the effects of increasing the turtle catch limit on the species’ survival and eventual recovery. Judge David Ezra approved the settlement as a consent decree.

In its appeal, the fishing industry argued that the court lacked the power to issue the consent decree. The appeals court rejected this argument, noting that the consent decree simply offered the sea turtles some protection by reinstating the previous catch limit, while allowing the agency an opportunity to reconsider its position in light of the latest scientific information.

“Our settlement ensures that sea turtles can swim more freely and safely in Hawaii’s waters,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If loggerheads and leatherbacks are going to survive, we need to stop killing them in our fisheries.”

While the appeal was pending, the Fisheries Service in September 2011 changed the loggerheads’ designation to “endangered.” In January 2012 the agency also issued a new “biological opinion” under the consent decree. That document proposes to increase the number of endangered loggerhead sea turtles the longliners can catch from 17 to 34. It also increases the limit for catching endangered leatherback sea turtles from 16 to 26. Notably, in 2011 the fishery was forced to close after it caught its limit of leatherbacks.

Said Teri Shore of the Turtle Island Restoration Network: “Sea turtles are becoming more endangered, not less, so each one we lose in the longline fishery pushes them closer to extinction. Allowing more sea turtles to be harmed in this high-bycatch fishery makes a joke out of so-called sustainable seafood.”

Swordfish longline vessels trail up to 60 miles of fishing line suspended in the water with floats, with as many as 1,000 baited hooks deployed at regular intervals. Sea turtles become hooked while trying to take bait or become entangled while swimming through the nearly invisible lines. These encounters can drown the turtles or leave them with serious injuries. Sea birds such as albatross dive for the bait and become hooked; marine mammals, including endangered humpback whales and false killer whales, also sometimes become hooked when they swim through the floating lines.

DLNR Sets Up Reward Tip Line in New Effort Launched to Combat Wildlife Crimes in Hawaii

The Humane Society of the United States and Hawaii DLNR Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement Inaugurate Reward Tip Line As Total Rewards Grows to $30,000 in Monk Seal Killings.

The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust announced new efforts to support the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement’s work to combat poaching and designated wildlife-related crimes by sponsoring a toll-free, confidential reward tip line, 1-855-DLNR-TIP.

The statewide tip line will allow citizens to confidentially report information about poaching crimes to law enforcement. The HSUS will offer $2,500 rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for specific, predetermined cases. The first case under this new reward program and tip line involves three monk seals killed on Moloka‘i and a fourth monk seal found killed on Kaua‘i. Necropsies performed on three of the four seals confirmed the deaths were suspicious. The fourth case is pending additional information. Anyone with information about these cases is asked to call the confidential reward tip line.

Along with The HSUS’s $2,500 reward offering, the Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Marine Conservation Institute are collectively offering $2,500 for each incident. A generous anonymous local donor has offered to match these rewards, bringing the reward total up to $30,000, or $10,000 per seal.

“We are pleased to support the critical work of DOCARE by funding a reward program and tip line for information on illegal wildlife-related offenses,” said Inga Gibson, Hawai‘i state director for The HSUS. “We must be a voice for these innocent animal victims and encourage anyone with information to please call the confidential tip line.”

“Monk seals are a vital part of Hawai‘i’s marine ecosystems,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson. “The intentional killing of any monk seal is not only illegal, it is inexcusable environmentally and culturally.”

“We thank The HSUS for their sponsorship of this new program to help protect Hawaii’s precious wildlife,” said Randy Awo, DOCARE chief. “Our hope is that the reward program will deter future wildlife crimes and also encourage the community to become more involved in protecting our environment and reporting wildlife offenses.”

Wildlife officials estimate that tens of millions of animals are poached annually nationwide, but less than 5 percent of poached animals come to the attention of law enforcement. Wildlife officials report that poachers often commit other crimes as well.

For more information about this current reward posting please visit humanesociety.org/hawaii

Monk Seal Facts:
• Hunted to the brink of extinction in the late 19th century, Hawaiian monk seal populations have been declining since modern surveying due to human interactions such as intentional killing, marine debris and fishing gear entanglement, disease and loss of habitat.

• Hawaiian monk seals are one of the world’s most endangered animals, with population estimates less than 1,100. Hawaiian monk seals are endemic to Hawai‘i and found nowhere else in the world.

• In June 2010, the Legislature passed Act 165, specifically to increase penalties for taking (which is defined to include harassing or killing) a monk seal. It’s a Class C felony (up to 5 years imprisonment). Someone convicted under this law could face a maximum fine of $50,000. Monk seals are also protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes it a crime to kill or harm a Hawaiian monk seal.

Endangered Hawaiian Songbird Hatched in Artificial Nest Box Raises Hope for Species’ Survival

There is renewed hope for conservation of the endangered Puaiohi (pronounced Poo-eye-o-hee; also known as the Small Kauaʻi Thrush) on the island of Kauaʻi, Hawaii. Nest boxes put up in 2007 by Pacific Rim Conservation and the Kauaʻi Forest Bird Recovery Project have recently resulted in the fledging of a chick. This event is only the second time ever that Puaiohi chicks have fledged from nest boxes in the wild. Furthermore, during checks at the end of the season, fresh nest material was found in three other nest boxes, indicating that Puaiohi have been actively exploring and perhaps using even more nest boxes.

Puaiohi in nestbox by Eric VanderWerf, Pacific Rim Conservation

Puaiohi in nestbox by Eric VanderWerf, Pacific Rim Conservation

“When there are only approximately 500 mature individuals of a species left, small successes such as this are reasons to be excited.  It looks like the team on Kauaʻi may have identified a methodology that, though labor intensive, offers additional hope for preserving this bird in the wild,” said George Wallace, Vice President for Oceans and Islands at American Bird Conservancy.

The Puaiohi nests in natural cliff and tree cavities, and like many other native Hawaiian bird species, it is highly vulnerable to nest predation by rats, which prey on eggs, chicks, and even adults. A key to the success of some of these nest boxes, placed along the Kawaikoi Stream located in the Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve and the Halepaʻakai Stream in the Alakaʻi Wilderness Preserve, is that they provide nest sites that are safer from rats.  Lisa “Cali” Crampton, Project Leader for the Kauaʻi Forest Bird Recovery Project, which is implementing conservation efforts for the Puaiohi said that, “Eventually, the project hopes to expand the range of Puaiohi by providing nest boxes in other areas that lack the natural cliff nest sites preferred by the species.”

One nest fledged a chick early in June, the first and only time since the first successful fledging in 2002. A second nest box was used for nesting, but the nesting attempt failed.  “Although only a small number of the 34 boxes have been used so far, we’re hoping that this is the beginning of an encouraging trend,” said Eric VanderWerf of Pacific Rim Conservation, who installed the boxes in 2007.

The Puaiohi is endemic to a small part of the island of Kauaʻi and is listed under the Endangered Species Act as Endangered. In addition to the rat problem, pigs destroy native forest understory vegetation where Puaiohi spend much of their time. Non-native plants, such as blackberry, Australian tree fern, Kahili ginger, daisy fleabane, and strawberry guava make habitat unsuitable for Puaiohi, in some cases overwhelming the cliff nesting sites along preferred stream banks with vegetation.

Puaiohi are also susceptible to avian pox and avian malaria, which are transmitted by introduced mosquitoes, but the full extent to which those diseases limit the species is not fully understood. Some birds have recently exhibited resistance to malaria, which is very encouraging for the future survival of the species.

The recovery efforts for Puaiohi are led by the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project, a cooperative project of Hawaii’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) and the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit of the University of Hawaii, and are supported by partners including the Kokeʻe Resource Conservation Program and the Kauai Watershed Alliance. Puaiohi have done relatively well in captivity. The Zoological Society of San Diego, in partnership with DOFAW and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have bred and released nearly 200 Puaiohi into the wild since 1999, which has likely helped maintain the wild population. In fact, some of the nest boxes in Kawaikoi Stream were used by captive-bred birds, further bolstering prospects for the species’ recovery.

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:


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)
Band-rumped storm petrel, Hawaii population
Blackline megalagrion damselfly
Bracted phyllostegia
Christella boydiae
Crimson Hawaiian damselfly
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
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)
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)
Newcomb’s tree snail
Nohoanu (Geranium hanaense)
Nohoanu (Geranium hillebrandii)
Oceanic Hawaiian damselfly
Orangeblack Hawaiian megalagrion damselfly
Platydesma cornuta var. cornuta
Platydesma cornuta var. decurrens
Pomace fly
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

Syd Singer on the Continuation of the Mangrove Lawsuit

Commentary by Syd Singer:

A public meeting was scheduled by Mayor Kenoi to discuss the controversial mangrove eradication and poisoning project that has now left over 30 acres of mangroves dead and rotting along the Puna coastline. The meeting, scheduled for July 31 at the Pahoa Community Center, was the first chance given to the public to comment on and question the project.

But the meeting never happened. Malama o Puna, the organization spearheading the poisoning, backed out at the last minute, causing the County to cancel the meeting, according to Hunter Bishop, spokesperson for Mayor Kenoi.

The public is left with an ugly, poisoned shoreline and still without any voice on the issue.

The 30 acres of mangroves now stand dead and defoliated along the sensitive Big Island coastline, left to rot over the years and blighting what had been beautiful, treasured areas. Wai Opae (which is the popular snorkeling area in Kapoho), Pohoiki (also called Isaac Hale Beach Park), Paki Bay, and Onekahakaha Beach Park in Hilo have all been poisoned.

There was no public hearing or public comment period allowed for this mangrove eradication project, which was done with the cooperation of the DLNR, County of Hawaii, and Big Island Invasive Species Committee. There was no environmental assessment or environmental impact statement prepared. For most residents who frequent these areas, awareness of the project began when they noticed the mangroves were dying and brown scum was floating on the water. Heaps of dead leaves from the defoliated trees still line the high tide mark.

A public protest against the mangrove poisoning was held in January, 2010, and the controversy was reported in the media. But Malama o Puna refused to stop the poisoning.

A citizen lawsuit was filed in February to get an injunction to stop the poisoning until an environmental assessment was done. Despite requests that they stop their work, Malama o Puna continued with their poisoning, killing 7 acres of mangroves at Pohoiki and 3-4 acres of mangroves at Onekahakaha Beach Park in Hilo while the lawsuit proceeded.

A ruling has just been made on the lawsuit, which continues in Third Circuit Court in Hilo. The Court has ruled that it is too late to sue Malama o Puna for not doing an environmental assessment. This does not mean Malama o Puna did not have to do an environmental assessment. It just means that it was too late to have the issue considered by the Court.

Attorneys for defendants Malama o Puna, DLNR, and County of Hawaii tried to get the case dismissed, claiming that private citizens cannot sue for violations of the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, or Hawaii Pesticide law. But the Court reaffirmed that the public has a right to a clean and healthy environment, as provided in the Hawaii Constitution Article Xl, Section 9, and that all citizens have a right to sue to protect those environmental rights.

The lawsuit now will focus on whether Malama o Puna violated clean water regulations and threatened endangered species that are known to use the poisoned areas. No further hearings are scheduled at this time.

Ironically, mangroves may be the best species for Hawaii’s subsiding coastline, especially given the climate change predictions coming from the Hawaii government and environmental groups that the oceans are rising. Mangroves protect the shoreline from erosion, storm surge, and tsunamis. In fact, mangroves have been shown to save lives.

Unfortunately, while recognizing climate change is the environmental issue of our time, some environmental groups and government agencies have not yet realized the implications climate change has for “invasive” species control. Climate change is an inconvenient truth for those who want to save native species that thrived in the past but which may not survive in today’s and tomorrow’s altered environment. Introduced species which grow well here may belong to the Hawaii of the future. Today’s “invasive” species may become tomorrow’s “invaluable” species.

This especially applies to mangroves, considered by the Nature Conservancy in its Summer, 2010 magazine as one of the most valuable and beneficial species in the world. Mangroves may prove critical to shoreline protection in Hawaii as the oceans rise and the land sinks.

While their presence in Hawaii is controversial, as is the use of powerful poisons to kill the mangroves and leave them rotting along the shoreline, the public will not have an opportunity to comment on this eradication. And while the County meeting was too little, too late, it was at least an attempt to include the public. But now, even that attempt has been poisoned.

For more information, see www.mangrovelawsuit.com.

Sydney Ross Singer

P.O. Box 1880, Pahoa, Hawai 96778