By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau
WAILUKU, Maui The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced a proposal to establish new protections for 32 endangered plants on Molokai, including five species that exist only on the Friendly Isle.
The agencys draft rule proposes 28 separate critical habitat areas, comprising about 15,227 acres of private, state and federal lands.
Anne Badgley, the services Pacific regional director, said the announcement means that the agency will have met its court-ordered deadline to propose critical habitat designations for 100 Hawaiian plant species.
Hawaii environmental groups sued the agency in 1997 for refusing to designate critical habitat for 245 recently listed plant species.
The agency argued that designation would open the plants to vandalism or that nothing would be gained. But a federal judge disagreed, ordering the declarations by April 30, 2002.
The Fish and Wildlife Service already has presented its proposal to designate critical habitat for 76 plant species on Kauai and Niihau, 50 plants on Maui and Kahoolawe, and 18 plants on Lanai. Proposed designations for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the Big Island and Oahu are expected before the final deadline.
For Molokai, the service proposes 28 separate areas, most of them in the eastern and northwestern portions of the island. They vary in size from 1.31 acres (the state-managed Huelo Bird Sanctuary on Huelo Islet) to nearly 2,321 acres.
Several acres are managed by the National Park Service within Kalaupapa National Historical Park, but most of the acreage is on state and private lands.
The proposed rule addresses a total of 40 species, but the agency decided that seven of the species already are protected by existing preserves.
The service also decided not to designate one species of the native loulu palm to avoid increased threat from vandalism or collection.
Public comments will be accepted for 60 days. Send comments to: Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Pacific Islands, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 3-122, Box 50088, Honolulu, HI 96850.
Requests for public hearings on the proposal must be received within 45 days.
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