WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has added 48 species endemic to the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i to the endangered species list, and has designated 26,500 acres as critical habitat. This marks the first time all endangered species in an ecosystem not already on the Endangered Species List have been given protection by the Federal Government at once.
The agency believes this will improve recovery of species because threats may be addressed collectively.
Kaua’i is the first of the Hawaiian Islands to have its imperiled species designated as a group because it has the highest number of rare species endemic to one island.
The list of species includes 45 plants, 2 birds, and 1 picture-wing fly.
The birds are honeycreepers that live only on Kaua’i. One is called ‘akeke’e, which means active, nimble or quick in Hawaiian, and the other is called ‘akikiki, which is thought to be named after the sound of its call.
The agency’s action is in part a response to a 2004 petition and two lawsuits from the Center for Biological Diversity. At least 31 of the species have been on the agency’s candidate list for 20 years, displaced by higher priority listings.
“By highlighting species that share ecosystems and common threats, we can more effectively focus conservation management efforts to address these threats and restore ecosystem function,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in the agency announcement of the Kaua’i listings.
The listed species are spread over six major ecosystems on the island but face similar threats, including feral goats and pigs indiscriminately eating plants and destroying food and nesting sources for the birds, and unscrupulous horticultural collectors who take native plants for replanting in home gardens.
While many environmental groups gave the Obama administration high marks for overturning many eleventh hour Bush administration decisions not to extend ESA protections to candidate species, the pace of moving those species from the candidate list to being actually protected by the act has been the worst since the Reagan administration, according to the Center for Biodiversity.
The agency says that 251 highly endangered species remain on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ESA candidate list where they receive no protection. Species the agency has determined are threatened or endangered are placed on the candidate list pending agency money being available after protective status has been granted to higher listing priorities.