Size of Kaua’i, Ni’ihau “Critical Habitat” land area cut in half

Fish & Wildlife Service announce new plan

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a plan on Thursday declaring critical habitat designations for 52,549 acres on Kaua’i and 375 acres on Ni’ihau.

The plan is said to protect 83 threatened and endangered plants on the islands.

Most of the protective zones will be established on conservation land in the mountains of Kaua’i, said Paul Henson, field supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Islands office on O’ahu.

For Ni’ihau, the protective zones would be mostly located on the coastline, Henson said.

Fish and Wildlife had initially proposed critical habitat designations for 99,000 acres for both islands, with most of the zones on Kaua’i.

Based on new information provided by the public or data gathered during field visits by Fish and Wildlife staffers, the federal agency decided to cut the acreage by half in its new and approved plan, Henson said.

“Half of the species are multi-island species. As we went down the chain proposing critical habitats for other species, we found areas on Maui and O’ahu for those species, and thus reduced the total area on Kaua’i,” Henson said.

Fish and Wildlife was able to refine the number of acres for protection after agency officials met with key landowners on Kaua’i, Henson said.

“We talked with large landowners like Grove Farm, Kipukai and Princeville Corporation, and they allowed us on their properties. We were able to refine with a fine-tooth comb what was critical habitat and what wasn’t,” Henson said.

Residents have voiced concerns that they could lose control of their properties through the critical habitat designations.

Fish and Wildlife officials have said the designations won’t affect activities on state or private lands unless a federal permit, license or funding is involved.

If a federal agency wants to develop a project in an area with the protective designation, it would have to consult with Fish and Wildlife before it could move forward with its plans, Henson said.

If the project poses a threat to the endangered plants, Fish and Wildlife could reject it, Henson said.

Keith Robinson, whose family owns Ni’ihau island and about 50,000 acres in West Kaua’i and on the island’s North Shore, insists the plan cannot work because native plants are biologically inferior to introduced plants.

Robinson, who has been involved with the preservation of endangered plants on Kaua’i for nearly two decades, said extensive manpower and resources must be provided in order for the plants to survive.

He said it is not likely that the federal government would bear the cost. The amount of money the federal government or private landowner would set aside for the protective zones has not been determined.

In response to the approved federal plant protection plan, Robinson said he would drastically cut back on his preservation efforts.

Through a court order brought about by a lawsuit filed in 1997 by the Earthjustice environmental law organization, Fish and Wildlife was required to establish the protective zones after listing 245 plant species statewide for protection.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and


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