The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing whether 69 Pacific plant and animal species are properly placed on the federal endangered species list.
While a few of the species being considered are from other parts of the Pacific, most are Hawaiian.
They include such charismatic animals as the 'alala, or Hawaiian crow, which now survives only in captivity; the 'io, or Hawaiian hawk; the koloa, or Hawaiian duck; the Big Island's yellow palila; O'ahu's 'elepaio; and the puaiohi, or small Kaua'i thrush, which has responded well to captive rearing and reintroduction into the wild.
Among the plant species on the list for review are the Mauna Loa silversword, a group of exceedingly rare but beautiful cyanea, the small Nihoa island fan palm Pritchardia remota, the giant Big Island fan palm Pritchardia schattaueri, and a small native Kaua'i violet with the romantic name nani wai'ale'ale.
The service is required every five years to review each species on the endangered species list, looking into trends in their populations and locations, any new information about their biology or threats to them, and any efforts made to conserve them. The goal of the review is to determine whether they should be reclassified. Some might be extinct, so they can be removed from the list, and some might not any longer be in danger and could be removed. Some might be moved from endangered to threatened status or vice versa.
The idea of the review is to ensure that plants and creatures don't languish on the list for decades without anyone paying any attention to them. The review should point out species whose status is in potentially catastrophic decline. It might also point out species that might have been improperly placed on the list because people simply didn't know enough about them.
There have been discussions, for example, of whether the Hawaiian hawk might have been inappropriately listed — while not common, they may not be properly viewed as endangered. Indeed, they are believed responsible for killing some of the last Hawaiian crows in the wild, prompting wildlife officials to bring remaining birds into captivity.
The service has information on the species at www.fws.gov/endangered/wildlife.html. A public comment period on the proposed reviews is open through May 7.
If you have a question or concern about the Hawaiian environment, drop a note to Jan TenBruggencate at P.O. Box 524, Lihu'e, HI 96766 or email@example.com. Or call him at (808) 245-3074.