Group threatens lawsuit seeking habitat protection for 49 endangered species in Hawaiʻi

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the US Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday for allegedly failing to protect critical habitat for 49 endangered species in the Hawaiian Islands.

The Service protected all 49 species as endangered on Sept. 30, 2016, but the Center says the agency “failed to designate critical habitat as required.”

Public affairs specialist Jordan Akiyama with the USFWS responded to Maui Now’s request for comment via email saying, “As practice, we do not comment on ongoing litigation.”

The list includes species like the ‘Akē‘akē, also known as the band-rumped storm-petrel, and the Nalo Meli Maoli, also called the Hawaiian yellow-faced bee.

The distinct population of ‘akē‘akē, returns to land from its life at sea to mate and breed in Hawaiʻi. “Hawaiian mountains provide habitat for these small, oceanic birds to make burrows as nest sites for their young. Historically they were common across all the Hawaiian Islands, but their population has declined significantly because of habitat loss,” according to the Cente.r

There’s also the Cyanea kauaulaensis, a shrub that produces bright orange fruit. By the time it was first found in 1989 and identified as a new species in 2012, its habitat was restricted to Kauaula Valley on Maui, according to the Center.

As for the Nalo Mele Maoli, there are seven different species of yellow-faced bees included on the list. “These bees represent one of the spectacularly rapid speciations that make Hawaiʻi a biodiversity hotspot,” according to the Center.

The 49 animal and plant species on the list are found nowhere else in the world outside of the Hawaiian Islands.

The Center notes that they are threatened by urbanization, damage from nonnative and invasive species, wildfires and water extraction. These threats are made worse by the increasing effects of climate change, according to the notice.

Maxx Phillips, Hawai’i director at the Center said more must be done to protect habitat for these species before it’s too late.

“In 2021 nine other Hawaiian species were declared extinct, highlighting the need for swift action,” according to the Center.

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