Rare flies get second chance
Fans of Hawaii's rare picture-wing flies get a second chance to lobby for their protection after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversed seven rulings yesterday in which it had denied increased protection for endangered species.
USGS PHOTO BY DAVID FOOTE
Drosophila heteroneura is one of 12 species proposed for listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The service's announcement follows an investigation that found its actions were tainted by political pressure from a former senior Interior Department official.
In a letter to U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the agency acknowledged that the actions had been "inappropriately influenced" and that "revising the seven identified decisions is supported by scientific evidence and the proper legal standards."
The rulings came under scrutiny last spring after an Interior Department inspector general concluded that agency scientists were being pressured to alter their findings on endangered species by Julie MacDonald, then a deputy assistant secretary overseeing the Fish and Wildlife Service. MacDonald resigned in May.
In a statement, Rahall said MacDonald, who was a civil engineer, "should never have been allowed near the endangered species program." He called MacDonald's involvement in species protection cases during her three-year tenure as an example of "this administration's penchant for torpedoing science."
In August, scientists criticized as inadequate the Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal to set aside 18 acres for the 12 endangered species of Hawaii picture-wing flies, a release from the service said.
The major threats to the 12 listed species of picture-wing flies are habitat degradation by feral animals, loss of host plants, and impacts of non-native insect predators and parasites.
Additional public comment can be submitted until Jan. 28.
There are about 106 species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies. Each species is specially adapted to a particular island and a specific habitat type, ranging from desertlike environments to rain forests and swamplands, the service said.
Also benefiting from the service's reversals will be mainland species: the white-tailed prairie dog, the Preble's meadow jumping mouse, the Canada lynx, Arroyo toad, and the California red-legged frog.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Agency solicits comments on proposal
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will accept comments until Jan. 28 on proposed rules relating to 12 species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies, but requests for a public hearing must be made by Jan. 14. The rules were published today in the Federal Register.
Comments can be submitted to:
» Patrick Leonard, Field Supervisor, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 3-122, Box 50088, Honolulu, HI 96850
Copies of the proposed rules can be seen at:
» www.fws.gov/pacificislands or requested by calling the Fish and Wildlife Service's Honolulu office (808) 792-9400.