Critical habitat proposal cut back by Fish & Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has slashed the amount of acreage it is proposing to designate critical habitat to protect 83 plant species on Kauai and Niihau.

Responding to a 1998 federal court order, the agency in January proposed establishing 99,000 acres of critical habitat.

Further research conducted since then led to trimming the proposed total area to roughly 60,000 acres, according to Paul Henson, field supervisor of the agency’s Pacific Islands office.

No final decision has been reached because the public comment period continues through Sept. 30, he said.

Some of the reduction stemmed from the discovery that a number of the plant species are also growing on other islands, Henson said.

In addition, some proposed areas were cut because some of the plants should be limited to specific elevations, he said.

Plant experts also discovered areas where a number of the plants can use the same area, thus reducing the need for designating separate habitats, Henson said.

Further reductions were added because simple mapping errors led to the inclusion of some areas that shouldn’t have been considered, he said.

The 99,000-acre proposal had angered some landowners and hunters, with many complaining it would ultimately lead to the end of traditional uses of the land.

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