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Lawsuit seeks protected habitat for 49 plants, animals

HONOLULU — The Center for Biological Diversity has sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 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 agency has failed to designate critical habitat as required by the federal Endangered Species Act, the suit alleges.

This unlawful delay puts these endangered plants and animals at greater risk of going extinct.

Despite this clear legal requirement, the service has failed to designate critical habitat for a 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 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.

“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.”

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 ‘ake‘ake, also known as the band-rumped storm-petrel, is a distinct population segment found only in the Hawaiian Islands. This isolated and genetically unique population is one of Hawai‘i’s rarest, most-elusive seabird species.

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. Yet the agency has failed to designate critical habitat. These threats are made worse by the effects of climate change through sea-level rise and coastal inundation, the suit contends.

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. Species with designated critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be in recovery as those without it.
Source: The Garden Island

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