Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 17, 2012

23 Oahu Species Gain Endangered Species Act Protection, More Than 40,000 Acres of Critical Habitat

HONOLULU— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized protection today for 23 species on the Hawaiian island of Oahu under the Endangered Species Act as a result of a 2011 settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity requiring the agency to speed protection decisions for 757 species. The agency also designated 42,804 acres (67 square miles) of protected critical habitat for the species, which include 20 plants (some with fewer than 50 left in the wild) and three damselflies — the crimson Hawaiian damselfly, blackline Hawaiian damselfly and oceanic Hawaiian damselfly.

“These unique Hawaiian species are a national treasure, and now they have the Endangered Species Act protection and habitat they need to survive,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist with the Center.

After years of delayed protection for imperiled plants and animals, in July 2011 the Center and the Service reached a legal settlement to speed protection decisions for 757 backlogged species, including 19 of the 23 protected on Oahu. The Center first petitioned in 2004 to protect 19 of today’s species. The 16 plants and three damselflies have been waiting for years on the federal “candidate” list, a waiting list for species known to qualify for Endangered Species Act protection but deemed lower priority by Fish and Wildlife.

Like butterflies, damselflies undergo metamorphosis. Juvenile damselflies, or larvae, require clean water to survive. The damselflies are threatened by agricultural and urban development, stream alteration and predation by nonnative insects; they hatch in streams, small cascades of waterfalls or wet, mossy areas. After metamorphosis, they become shiny-winged adults that move into the forest.

Today’s rule includes four plants identified as the “rarest of the rare” by the Plant Extinction Prevention Program. Each of the four plant species has fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild and is in need of immediate conservation. The plants occur in a variety of habitats and are threatened by habitat loss and foraging and trampling by invasive goats, pigs and rodents. They are also threatened by invasive insects.

“The Hawaiian Islands are home to some of the most beautiful and endangered plants and animals on Earth. With Endangered Species Act protection, which has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species under its care, we’re hopeful that these lovely Oahu species will now survive for future generations to enjoy,” said Curry.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.