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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 6, 2002

Critical habitat designation on Kaua'i pared

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

LIHUE, Kaua'i — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has tentatively cut about a third of its proposed critical habitat designation for endangered plants on Kaua'i and Ni'ihau.

Reduction of Kaua'i acreage

For more information or to comment on the proposal, call the Fish and Wildlife Service at 541-3441.

The service is operating under a federal court order to identify specific areas required to protect rare Hawai'i plants and to allow them to expand so they are no longer endangered.

A proposal for Kaua'i County started at 60,000 acres and jumped to 99,000 acres after initial review, driving hunters and landowners to express their anger during public hearings on the plan. Many said they are concerned the designations ultimately would mean an end to traditional uses of the land, from ranching and farming, to hunting and gathering of plants used for medicinal and cultural purposes.

Paul Henson, field supervisor for the Pacific Islands Office of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said further research has helped the agency trim the total acreage proposed. He said the Kaua'i plants were the first to be studied, and it was later determined that many of the plants also exist on other islands, reducing the amount of Kaua'i acreage needed.

Plant experts also found areas where multiple plants can use the same habitat, reducing the need for designating entirely separate pieces of land. It was also learned that some of the plants should be limited to specific elevations, cutting some proposed areas, Henson said.

In addition, simple mapping errors included some areas that shouldn't have been considered.

Henson and his staff have been on Kaua'i this week airing their updated critical habitat proposal. The service has not added up the acreage of its latest proposal, but Henson agreed with a rough guess that it is about 60,000 acres.

He cautioned that the public comment period continues through Sept. 30, and that the service has not made final decisions.

"It's still a living document," he said.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.