Updated: September 22, 2022
The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a lawsuit against the US Fish and Wildlife Service for allegedly failing to protect critical habitat for 49 endangered Hawaiian Islands species.
The Service listed the species as endangered on Sept. 30, 2016, but nearly six years later the Center says the agency has failed to designate critical habitat as required by the Endangered Species Act, putting these plants and animals at greater risk of extinction.
“After six years of dragging its feet, it’s clear the Fish and Wildlife Service had no intention of protecting habitat for these severely endangered species, just like it’s failed to do for so many others,” said Maxx Phillips, Hawai‘i director and staff attorney at the Center in a press release. “Hawai‘i remains the extinction capital of the world. If the Service doesn’t act, and act quickly, these 49 irreplaceable species could disappear forever.”
Maui Now reached out to the USFWS regarding the filing, but did not receive a response. In response to an earlier notice to file complaint, Public affairs specialist Jordan Akiyama with the USFWS rsaid, “As practice, we do not comment on ongoing litigation.”
The agency filed a draft recovery plan in February, proposing the protection of 44 species in Maui Nui. At the time of the filing, the agency said the Endangered Species Act has been “extraordinarily effective” in preventing extinctions, with more than 99% of all listed species still with us today.
Forty-eight of the listed species, like the Nalo Meli Maoli — also called the Hawaiian yellow-faced bee — are found nowhere else in the world outside of Hawai‘i. The ‘Akē‘akē, also known as the band-rumped storm-petrel, is a distinct population segment found solely within the Hawaiian Islands. This isolated and genetically unique population is one of Hawai‘i’s rarest, most elusive seabird species, according to the Center.
The Service recognized in 2016 that these species were threatened by habitat loss and degradation resulting from urbanization, nonnative and invasive species, wildfire and water extraction.
The Center maintains that listing a species as endangered “is only the first step” in ensuring its survival and recovery. “Critical habitat protections would prohibit federal actions that destroy or harm such habitat, and they would help preserve what remains of these species’ limited native range,” according to the center.
The Center further reports that: “Species with designated critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be in recovery as those without it, making it imperative to protect the places where these rare Hawaiian species live. In 2021 nine other Hawaiian species were declared extinct, highlighting the need for swift action.”