HONOLULU — The Center for Biological Diversity today sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect critical habitat for 49 endangered species on the Hawaiian Islands.
The Service listed the species as endangered on September 30, 2016. But nearly six years later, the agency has failed to designate critical habitat as required by the Species Act in Endangered. This illegal delay puts these endangered plants and animals at increased risk of extinction.
Despite this clear legal requirement, the Service has failed to designate critical habitat for the majority of endangered and threatened species – not just in Hawai’i, but nationwide.
“After six years of dragging its feet, it’s clear the Fish and Wildlife Service had no intention of protecting the habitat of these critically endangered species, just as it has failed for so many others. “said Maxx Phillips, director and staff of Hawai’i. lawyer at the Center. “Hawaii remains the extinction capital of the world. If the Service does not act, and acts quickly, these 49 irreplaceable species could disappear forever.
Forty-eight of the listed species, like the Nalo Meli Maoli — also called the Hawaiian yellow-faced honey bee — are found nowhere else in the world outside of Hawai’i. The ‘Akē’akē, also known as the banded-rumped storm petrel, is a distinct population segment found only in the Hawaiian Islands. This isolated and genetically unique population is one of Hawaii’s rarest and most elusive seabird species.
The Service recognized in 2016 that these species were threatened by habitat loss and degradation resulting from urbanization, non-native and invasive species, wildfires and water extraction. Yet the agency has not designated any critical habitat. These threats only compound the growing effects of climate change through sea level rise and coastal flooding.
Listing an endangered species is only the first step to ensuring its survival and recovery. Critical habitat protections would prohibit federal actions that destroy or harm this habitat, and they would help preserve what remains of these species’ limited natural ranges.
Species with a designated critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be in recovery as those without, making it imperative to protect the places where these rare Hawaiian species live. In 2021, nine more Hawaiian species were declared extinct, underscoring the need for quick action.
‘Akē’akē: This distinct population of ‘akē’akē, or banded-rumped storm-petrel, in Hawaiʻi returns to land after its life at sea to mate and reproduce. The Hawaiian mountains provide the perfect habitat for these small ocean birds to make burrows as nesting sites for their young. Historically, they were common throughout the Hawaiian Islands, but their population has declined significantly due to habitat loss.
Cyanea kaauulaensis: This shrub, which has no common name, produces bright orange fruits. When it was first discovered in 1989 and identified as a new species in 2012, its habitat was restricted to the Kaauula Valley in Maui.
Myrsine fosbergii: These small trees are found in the native rainforests of Oʻahu and Kauaʻi. They are easily spotted by their narrow green leaves that end in a dark purple base. Although once common, their populations are now limited to around 50 individuals due to habitat destruction by feral pigs and goats.
Nalo Meli Maoli: Among the 49 species, seven different species of yellow-faced bees, also known as nalo meli maoli. These bees represent one of the spectacular examples of rapid speciation that make Hawaii a biodiversity hotspot.