Friday, May 17, 2002

Plan to protect NW
Hawaiian Isle plants

5 species on 3 islands would be
given critical habitat designations

By Diana Leone

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing critical habitat designation for five endangered Hawaiian plant species on three Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

All three islands -- Nihoa, Necker and Laysan -- are entirely federal land within the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

After other Fish and Wildlife Service announcements of proposed critical habitat designations for Maui and Kauai counties, the state and private landowners have protested that the designations will not serve their intended purpose of protecting endangered plants.

Three of the endangered plant species -- Amaranthus brownii, Pritchardia remota or loulu, and Schiedea verticillata -- are found only in the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The other two -- Mariscus pennatiformis and Sesbania tomentosa -- are also found on one or more of the main Hawaiian Islands.

If approved, this proposed critical habitat rule would primarily affect the Fish and Wildlife Service, since access to these islands is already restricted.

The public is not allowed on the islands without permission.

"Although our efforts in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge are definitely aimed toward protecting and recovering endangered species, we believe critical habitat designation on our own lands will be beneficial," said Anne Badgley, Pacific regional director for the service.

Under the Endangered Species Act, a critical habitat designation identifies territories considered essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species.

All beach areas, sand spits and islets in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands already are designated critical habitat for the Hawaiian monk seal.

In 1998 the U.S. District Court directed Fish and Wildlife to reconsider its earlier decision not to designate critical habitat for 255 species of Hawaiian plants, including these five species.

Public comments on the proposal will be accepted until July 15. Comments should be sent to Paul Henson, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Pacific Islands, Box 50088, Honolulu 96850.

E-mail to City Desk


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