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Feds sued for neglecting to protect endangered Hawaiian species

By on August 12, 2022 0

Conservationists in the “Extinction Capital of the World” fear that the lack of critical habitats could push endangered species into unchecked extinction.

(CN) – Hawaii is home to a great level of biodiversity, but that unfortunately comes with a corresponding level of endangered endemic species. The Center for Biological Diversity has sued the US government for violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to protect endangered species on the Hawaiian Islands.

The complaintfiled Thursday in the United States District Court of Hawaii, alleges that the US Fish and Wildlife Service failed to act in the protection of 49 endangered species by failing to designate critical habitats for nearly six years.

“We are the extinction capital of the world,” said Maxx Philips, attorney for the Center of Biological Diversity and director of the Center’s Hawaii program, “We have one of the highest levels of endemic, and at Inside of it we have an enormous amount of endangered and threatened plants, and these species have not received the same level of protection and funding under the law.

The species identified in the complaint, consisting of 39 plants and 10 animals, were first listed as endangered in 2016. The Endangered Species Act states that critical habitats must be designated at the same time than registration, with leeway only for special circumstances. . At the time, the government agency indicated that these species were a special circumstance and the designation was deferred for what should have been only a year. Philips and other conservationists have now been waiting for six years, watching the statute of limitations continue to run.

“Based on the fact that none of these species are reflected in the Service’s next five-year work plan, it was clear that they weren’t going to designate critical habitat any time soon, so that forced us hand to file,” she said.

The endangered plant and animal species named in the complaint are distinct from the Hawaiian Islands and cannot be found elsewhere. Many have been threatened by both climatic effects and human intervention. These elements existed in 2016 when the Service first listed the species as endangered, and have only grown in the years since.

Temperature fluctuations and sea level rise exacerbated by climate change are degrading the environment of the islands. Urbanization and the introduction of invasive species, such as invasive weeds and bushes, as well as deer and feral pigs, have pushed endemic species out of their natural habitats and decimated their numbers.

The goal of the Endangered Species Act is not only to prevent extinction, but also to aid in the recovery of the species and increase their numbers back to sustainability. Designating critical habitat for these species is a key part of the process and is especially important to prevent other federal agencies from destroying the habitats necessary for the spread of endangered species.

“There is always the possibility for nature and wildlife to bounce back. ESA is the best tool to do this, and species with critical habitats have been shown to be twice as likely to bounce back from extinction and delist,” Philips said in an interview with Courthouse. News.

Many listed species are not only ecologically and scientifically important, but are also important to Native Hawaiians.

“We cannot consider the survival of these species in a vacuum. You have to have an ecosystem approach when considering the protection of species. They have all co-evolved over centuries and they need each other,” Philips said.

The list of endangered species that the trial includes several types of yellow-faced bees, known in Hawaiian as Nalo Meli Maoli, as well as the ‘Akē’akē or banded-rumped storm petrel.

Philips is also drawing particular attention to the ‘aiea tree, whose quantities on the Big Island face an immediate threat this week due to a wild brush fire that broke out on Wednesday, with 20,000 acres scorched on next morning.

Philips comments that this type of neglect is a trend across the country, explaining that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is way behind not only in identifying critical habitats and recovery plans, but even in listing endangered species. endangered and threatened in the first place.

“Unfortunately they are grossly underfunded, and not just the Fish and Wildlife Service, but specifically our jurisdiction, Hawaii and the Marianas, they are not getting the resources from Washington to do what needs to be done,” he said. she declared. “Yet that doesn’t mean that on the scientific side and on the cultural side, because a lot of these species are culturally significant to Native Hawaiians, that doesn’t mean we can sit down and say, ‘Oh you guys don’t don’t have the proper funding or manpower, so we’ll just let it go. These species are heading towards extinction, we must do all we can.

The suit also names Deb Haaland in her official capacity as Secretary of the Interior, of which the US Fish and Wildlife Service is an agency. The US Fish and Wildlife Service could not immediately be reached for comment.

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