Center for Biological Diversity Sues FWS to Protect Hawaiian Species


The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in the District of Hawaii on Thursday against Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, and Martha Williams, Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), for failing to designate critical habitats for 49 species of plants and animals as required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The complaint says that on September 30, 2016, FWS listed 49 Hawaiian species as endangered. Since they are only native to certain Hawaiian islands, there is a “limited range” of potential habitats that are already degraded due to “urbanization; non-native wild ungulates […]; non-native plants; fires; and water extraction. To prevent [a species’] extinction and assist in its recovery,” the Service must designate critical habitat to protect this area from human activities until its population can grow and stabilize, according to the applicant. The Center noted that “Congress has recognized the importance of habitat protection to the conservation and recovery of endangered species,” which necessitates “rapid” identification of critical habitat to help these plants and these animals.

However, ESA habitat protections cannot begin until the FWS has designated critical habitat, per the complaint. The Center called the agency’s lack of action ‘inexcusable’ as ‘habitat loss and degradation have been widely cited […] as significant threats to the longevity of these species. According to the criteria listed in the ESA, after listing the 49 species in September 2016, they had until September 2017 to nominate critical habitat, but have neglected to do so until today. Thus, the Center for Biological Diversity is suing for violation of Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act.

The Center seeks a declaration that the FWS violated the ESA, an order that the Service must propose and finalize critical habitat rules for these Hawaiian species, attorneys’ fees and costs, and other remedies.

The Center for Biological Diversity is represented by Michael Phillips and Brian Segee.


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