AP NEWS

Group sues federal agency over Hawaii habitat protection

November 4, 2019 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — An environmental advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against a federal agency for what it says is a failure to protect habitat for 14 endangered Hawaiian species.

The Center for Biological Diversity says the failure to designate critical habitat for the plants and animals in a timely manner is a violation of the Endangered Species Act, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

The lawsuit named Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as defendants.

The Fish and Wildlife Service listed 15 plant and animal species in Hawaii as endangered in October 2013. The agency was required under the act to designate critical habitat but has only done so for one of the protected species, according to the lawsuit.

The center contends the delay deprives the 12 endangered plants and two endangered animals of protection and leaves them at increased risk of extinction. The species, which are only found on Hawaii island, face threats from agriculture, urbanization, invasive species, wildfire, erosion, natural disasters, and climate change, the lawsuit said.

“These special species are found nowhere else besides Hawaii island, so if they disappear from here they’ll be lost forever,” Maxx Phillips, the center’s Hawaii director, said in a statement. “Anchialine pool shrimp and the rest of this group needed habitat protection years ago, but they’re not getting it from the anti-wildlife Trump administration.”

The lawsuit requests finalization of critical habitat rules by specified dates.

“We are the endangered species capital of the world,” Phillips said. “With that comes this kuleana, or responsibility, that we take care of these species to make sure our generations to come can see them.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Interior Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment by the Associated Press.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com