Agency seeks protection for animals, plants

HONOLULU — Wildlife officials are seeking feedback from the public on whether to add dozens of plants and animals in Hawaii to the federal list of endangered species.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials have reopened a public comment period and are holding a public hearing and informational meeting to decide on a listing for the 49 species.

The proposed species of plants and animals are being threatened by the intrusion of invasive, non-native species; disruptive recreational activities; and factors such as expanding urban development, erosion, landslides and fire, according to federal officials.

The species being considered for an endangered listing include the yellow-faced bee; the orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly; the achialine pool shrimp; and a bird, the band-rumped storm petrel.

The main Hawaii islands have 481 of the 1,225 endangered species on the nationwide list, according to federal officials.

Kenneth Wood, a research botanist with the National Tropical Botanical Garden, said biodiversity is more abundant on Kaui than any of the other islands. Among the plants considered for an endangered listing are nine found only on Kauai, including Phyllostegia helleri, a native mint previously believed to be extinct but rediscovered in the 1990s.

“It grows in drier habitat, and on Kauai, drier areas have been more seriously impacted by animals and other plants,” said Wood.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the comment period from Monday to Feb. 24 and added the meetings in Hilo scheduled for Feb. 9 in response to a request from the Hawaii County Game Management Advisory Commission, which sought more information regarding a proposal that could affect game hunting areas.

Dave Lorence, NTBG science and conservation director, said Kauai is oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands, about 5 million years old, “and as a result plants have had a longer time to evolve into species endemic to Kauai.

He said many of these endemic species occupy relatively small, specialized habitats, perhaps only a single valley or mountain peak. Their population sizes are correspondingly small and vulnerable to threats.

The recent proposal to add 49 species to the protected list was introduced Sept. 30.

Nearly half, 44 percent, of the native Hawaiian plants depend on birds for pollination, and a majority, 96 percent, of them rely on birds for seed dispersal.

“As a result, many those plants are dying out because their pollinators and seed dispersers are gone,” Lorence said.

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