The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced a proposal to protect 40 different species native to Hawaii under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Federal Register notice of the announcement can be found here (pdf).  The proposal encompasses 37 plant species, including herbs, shrubs, trees, and ferns, and three species of tree snails.  The species are native to the Hawaiian Islands of Moloka’i, Lana’i, Kaho’olawe, and Maui.  They are found in 11 different ecosystem types.

The Service’s announcement also included critical habitat designation for 39 of the 40 species, totaling approximately 271,062 acres of land, including occupied and unoccupied habitat. Of that total, 192,364 acres are located on Maui, 46,832 acres are on Moloka’i, 25,413 acres are on Lana’i, and 6,453 acres are on Kaho’olawe.  Almost half of the designated area was already designated as critical habitat for other listed species.  Loyal Mehrhoff, field supervisor for the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office said of the listing, "The Service is implementing an ecosystem-based approach to the proposed listing and designation of critical habitat in Hawaii – which leads the nation in the number of federally listed and candidate species – to better prioritize, direct, and focus conservation and recovery actions."

Threats to the listed species include: (1) habitat degradation and direct consumption by nonnative pigs, goats, sheep, and deer; (2) direct consumption by nonnative pigs, goats, sheep, deer, other nonnative vertebrates and invertebrates; (3) habitat destruction and modification by nonnative plants, stochastic events (e.g. hurricanes, flooding, etc.), agriculture and urban development, and climate change; and (4) inadequate regulatory  mechanisms and other species-specific threats.  The Service found that all 40 species face immediate and significant threats throughout their ranges.

The Service announced its proposal to protect the 40 species, native to the Hawaiian Islands of Moloka’i, Lana’i, and Maui as endangered, as well as the designation of critical habitat for 135 species, in June 2012.  The Service’s announcement follows a 2004 petition drafted by the Center for Biological Diversity asking the Service to list 227 different species under the ESA.

Photo by Hank Oppenheimer, Plant Extinction Prevention Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service