Lawsuit spurs listing of 48 endangered species

LIHU‘E — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has picked up the pace in federally registering 48 endangered Kaua‘i species in light of a lawsuit filed earlier this week in federal court by environmental activists.

The final determination list — comprised of native flora and fauna found only on Kaua‘i — was supposed to be published by Oct. 21. There were some “last minute issues” that have been resolved, said Kenneth Foote, information and education specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The list is in the final process of approval. Publication on the federal registry is expected by the end of January.

“We are on the verge on publishing it,” he said, adding that it was the “first time we’ve used an ecosystem approach” to species conservation.

The new ecosystem-based approach to the listing and critical habitat designation process is designed to protect multiple species that occur in shared ecosystems and experience common threats, according to a Sept. 30, 2008 press release from Foote when the process first began.

Hawai‘i is already home to some 25 percent of the nation’s federally listed species with more than 390 plants and animals registered as either endangered or threatened, Foote said.

In addition to those which are legally protected, more than 300 species have been candidates for nearly 15 years and only 30 of those are on the current list, said Jay Tutchton, a lawyer representing WildEarth Guardians, the organization filing suit against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who is responsible for FWS.

After the deadline to publish the list had passed, WildEarth Guardians “formally notified the secretary of its demand that he finalize the proposed rules at issue, but … failed and continues to fail to do so,” according to court documents.

“Time is of the essence,” Tutchton said Wednesday. WildEarth Guardians plans to continue stepping up action against government agencies for failing to make timely progress in protecting endangered species.

Many species have gone extinct while waiting to be listed as federally endangered and WildEarth Guardians got “sick of waiting” for the action Salazar “promised to take” in protecting these species, Tutchton said.

“Once they’re listed they have a 99 percent chance of survival,” he said, adding that Kaua‘i is an “extinction hot spot.”

Habitat loss and the introduction of invasive species are among the elements affecting these native species, but Foote remains “optimistic” that recovery efforts will succeed in enhancing protection.

Once the final list is published, the species will receive federal protection and a recovery plan will be developed within five years to ensure their continued survival success, Foote said. Lists for O‘ahu and Maui are forthcoming.

For more information on WildEarth’s “BioBlitz” visit

• Coco Zickos, business and environmental writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or


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