Saturday | December 16, 2017
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Critical habitat designation still in negotiation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has added 15 Hawaii Island species to the endangered species list — one is on its way to getting critical habitat designated in West Hawaii.

The rule listing the new endangered species is separate from another, more controversial Fish and Wildlife Service proposal, to designate about 19,000 acres in North Kona as critical habitat for three endangered plant species. However, one of the 13 plant species being added to the Endangered Species Act list, Bidens micrantha ssp. ctenophylla, is one of the three plant species prompting the service to give the large swath of West Hawaii land, much of it undeveloped, the critical habitat designation. That designation can impact landowners who wish to develop their property, if they need federal approval to do so.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Ken Foote said there was some confusion about the two separate proposals, because public hearings were held simultaneously. Typically, species designation and habitat designation are done at the same time, but the timing for these proposals was altered because of a court order regarding the species listing, Foote said.

More than 100 people attended meetings on the critical habitat designation proposal, many expressing concerns about the habitat.

The service has an internal deadline to complete the habitat designation, but has not yet reached it, Foote said.

“We are still in negotiation with some of the stakeholders,” Foote said. “We’re still working on details.”

Hawaii’s congressional delegation intervened on West Hawaii’s behalf, asking federal officials to rethink the habitat designation.

The species, 13 types of plants, a picture-wing fly and an anchialine pool shrimp, live in 10 ecosystems on the Big Island. The new rule will take effect Nov. 29.

“This final listing rule is unique because it will be the first time in history an anchialine pool shrimp is included on the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants and Animals,” Loyal Mehrhoff, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Service Office field supervisor, said in a news release. “This species of shrimp is extremely rare, and until recently, the species had not been observed in the wild for more than 20 years. Currently, the species is known to occur in only five anchialine pools located along the coast of South Kona and Ka‘u.”

Public comments on the rule were limited, the 54-page final rule said. Most comments came from scientists and were focused on specific species.

One of the few public comments came from a Laiopua 2020 representative, who told federal officials none of the species were located within the development, according to a 2008 botanical survey. Officials responded that other surveys indicated the area was a likely habitat for the plant and the soil there may contain a seed bank for it.

Species being listed as endangered are: Bidens hillebrandiana ssp. hillebrandiana and Bidens micrantha ssp. ctenophylla (aka kookoolau), Cyanea marksii (haha), Cyanea tritomantha (aku), Cyrtandra nanawaleensis and Cyrtandra wagneri (haiwale), Phyllostegia floribunda, Pittosporum hawaiiense (hoawa), Platydesma remyi, Pritchardia lanigera (loulu), Schiedea diffusa ssp. macraei, Schiedea hawaiiensis and Stenogyne cranwelliae. The two animal species receiving endangered species status are Drosophila digressa (picture-wing fly) and Vetericaris chaceorum (anchialine pool shrimp).