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Monday, October 30, 2000

Critical native
plant habitats proposed

Areas in Kauai and Niihau
have been proposed as essential
to conserving 76 endangered species

Star-Bulletin staff

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed critical habitat designations for 76 of 81 threatened and endangered native plant species on Kauai and Niihau.

Three species of endangered palms were excluded because of increased threat of collection or vandalism if their location was identified. Two other species were omitted because they're believed to be extinct.

There are another 14 plant species that once existed on the two islands but are no longer found there in the wild. The plants are still on other islands, however, and will be included in future critical habitat determinations.

Under the Endangered Species Act, a critical habitat is a specific geographic area essential to conserve a threatened or endangered species, possibly with special management conditions.

Anne Badgley, Pacific regional director of the service, said, "Our ultimate goal is to restore healthy populations of listed species within their native habitats so they can be removed from the list of threatened and endangered species."

About 60,637 acres of state and private lands are included in the service's proposed rule, published Friday in the Federal Register.

The proposed areas are mostly in northwestern Kauai, with smaller units scattered elsewhere on the island, and two small parcels in the northwestern corner of Niihau.

The three largest contiguous areas cover about 38,130 acres on Kauai.

They include the Alakai Wilderness Preserve, portions of Kokee State Park and Waimea Canyon State Park.

Several state natural areas and forest reserves and lands owned or leased by the Department of Defense also are included.

A total of 255 threatened or endangered plant species in Hawaii were listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act between 1991 and 1999.

The service determined it wasn't prudent to designate critical habitat because of the threat of vandalism or because it wouldn't help the plants.

But challenges of those decisions in federal court resulted in an order to the service to publish critical habitat designations or nondesignations before April 30, 2002.

The proposed rule for the 76 threatened and endangered species is the first of seven proposals that will address critical habitat.

Economic and other impacts of designating a critical habitat area will be considered in making final designations.

Public comments should be sent by Dec. 26 to Paul Henson, field supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Pacific Islands, Box 50088, Honolulu, HI, 96850.

Requests for public hearings must be received by Dec. 11.

E-mail to City Desk

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