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Agency Proposes Listing |49 Hawaiian Species

WASHINGTON (CN) - Ten animal and 39 plant species in Hawaii have been proposed for endangered species listing in an ecosystem-based approach under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The 49 species proposed for listing on Wednesday face threats due to diminishing habitat, human activity, and impacts from non-native plant and animal species.

The proposal is in accordance with a 2011 settlement agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and its allies. The agreement mandates expedited listing determinations for hundreds of species within a six year period.

Of the 49 species proposed in this action, 48 are found no place else on earth. The exception, the band-rumped storm-petrel, also occurs in Japan, the Galapagos and subtropical areas of the Atlantic. The FWS has proposed only the distinct population segment of the petrels that occurs on the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Kauai and Lehua for protection.

The proposed species occupy 11 types of ecosystems, including coastal, lowland dry, lowland mesic, lowland wet, montane mesic, montane wet, montane dry, subalpine, dry cliff, wet cliff, and anchialine pools, which are landlocked, have indirect connections to the sea and fluctuate with the tides.

The anchialine pools are home to a small shrimp, one of the proposed animal species. Up to 90 percent of the Hawaiian pools have been destroyed by trash dumping, bulldozing and trampling during swimming activities.

The other eight proposed animal species are insects, and include the orangeback Hawaiian damselfly and seven yellow-faced bees.

"Many of these species are on the brink of extinction, and I'm relieved to see them moving toward the protection they desperately need," Loyal Mehrhoff, former field supervisor of the USFWS' Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office and now recovery director at the CBD, said.

All the ecosystems in the Hawaiian Islands chain evolved in isolation and are therefore especially susceptible to impacts from species that come from other places. Nonnative plants alone threatened 45 of the 49 proposed species. Feral cats, barn owls, mongoose, black rats, Norway rats, Polynesian rats, feral pigs, goats, axis deer and cattle threaten imperiled native plant and animal species by predation and trampling.

"Because species that share ecosystems face a suite of shared threats, managing or eliminating these threats holistically at an ecosystem level is more cost effective and should lead to better resource protection for all native species," the action noted.

The FWS has used the "ecosystem-based" approach for other Hawaiian species, for species in Guam and the Mariana Islands and for both the Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary and the American Samoa National Marine Sanctuary, among others.

"These species are facing tremendous challenges with shrinking habitat and the onslaught of invasive species," Kristi Young, FWS acting field supervisor for the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office said. "Implementing an ecosystem-based approach to the proposed listing allows the service to better prioritize and focus conservation and recovery actions in Hawaii."

The agency does not plan to designate critical habitat at this time due to a lack of information. Comments and information on the listing proposal are due by Nov. 30, and written public hearing requests are due Nov. 16.

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