Agreement shrinks
Lanai habitat plan

Castle & Cooke's projects will aid
federal protection programs

By Diana Leone

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scaled back its final proposal for "critical habitat" areas on Lanai by 96 percent, compared with its earlier plan.

In announcing its final critical habitat rule for Lanai this week, the federal agency touted its flexibility in working with landowners.

The change was enabled by landowner Castle & Cooke Resorts' agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service that it would construct exclosures to keep axis deer and sheep out of endangered plant areas, control fire-prone weeds and propagate endangered plants, the agency said in a release.

Anne Badgley, Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific regional director, said the agreement "illustrates the flexibility of the Endangered Species Act. The law requires us to consider economic and other impacts of designating a particular area as critical habitat. In this case, we are dealing with only one landowner and ... believe the plants will benefit far more from voluntary conservation activities by the private landowner than by designating critical habitat."

The Endangered Species Act requires that critical habitats be named for plants and animals it is trying to protect. The designation ensures that any federal action on the lands be reviewed for its possible impact on the species.

The 789 acres now proposed for critical habitat on Lanai will benefit three plant species: kookoolau (Bidens micrantha ssp. kalealaha), a member of the aster family; the poe (Portulaca sclerocarpa), an herb in the moss rose family; and Tetramolopium remyi, another aster.

Originally, the service had proposed 19,504 acres for the protection of 28 plant species on Lanai. Fish & Wildlife said Castle & Cooke's voluntary projects to protect Lanai's natural resources over the past five years factored into its changes.

Fish and Wildlife's critical habitat rule for endangered plants on Lanai is the farthest along of any of the islands. The agency is evaluating economic impacts of its draft designations on other islands before making final rules.

As much as 20 percent of the islands, or 839,783 acres, has been proposed as critical habitat for 255 endangered or threatened plants.

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