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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 23, 2003

3 islands listed as critical habitat

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated three entire islands in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as critical habitat for five endangered plants.

Nihoa, Necker and Laysan, all federal lands managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, have been designated. The designation is unlikely to have any effect on management of the islands.

"Our efforts in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge are already aimed toward protecting and recovering endangered species," said Dave Allen, Pacific regional director for the service.

Three of the plants are found only in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Two have no common names. They are Amaranthus brownii and Schiedea verticillata, both on Nihoa. A third is a variety of the native loulu fan palm, Pritchardia remota. The plant is found on Nihoa, but may have once been on Laysan, where it is being reintroduced.

The others, Mariscus pennatiformis from Laysan, and Sesbania tomentosa, or 'ohai, from Nihoa and Necker, are extremely rare but are found on the main Hawaiian Islands as well.

All areas of the three islands are considered critical habitat, except for existing structures and special features, including a field camp on Laysan and grave sites and cultural remains.

A sixth plant on the federal endangered species list for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands has not been seen since 1980 and is believed extinct. It is known as Cenchrus agrimonioides var. laysanensis, or kamanomano.