Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Agencies Seek Public Comment on Effort to Restore Lehua Island’s Ecosystem

May 5, 2017

Contact(s):

Contact: Megan Nagel, megan_nagel@fws.gov
Dan Dennison, dan.w.dennison@hawaii.gov
Heath Packard, heath_packard@islandconservation.org                    



Honolulu, Hawai‘i – Hawai‘i is home to an incredible diversity of species – many of which are found nowhere else in the world. Predation from invasive species like rats, mongooses and mice causes negative and wide-ranging impacts to native and endangered plants, invertebrates and birds.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a cooperating agency in a State of Hawai‘i led effort to restore Lehua Island’s native ecosystem through the eradication of non-native rats. Invasive rats eat native seabird eggs, chicks and adults and consume and destroy the island’s native plants and seeds. The Service has prepared a draft environmental assessment and will seek public comment on the proposed project from May 5 – May 19, 2017. 

Lehua Island is located about 19 miles west of Kaua‘i and less than a mile north of Ni‘hau.  It is a 115 hectare, crescent-shaped, and uninhabited island administered by the U.S. Coast Guard and managed by the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources as a State Seabird Sanctuary.

Lehua Island’s ecosystem supports one of the largest and most diverse seabird colonies in the main Hawaiian Islands. If rats are eradicated and the threat of predation removed, more than 17 seabird species could rely on the island as a safe place to rest or raise their young, including the endangered band-rumped storm petrel, endangered Hawaiian petrel and threatened Newell’s shearwater. In addition, 25 native plants, including endemic species occurring nowhere else in the world, call this island home.

The draft environmental assessment details several project alternatives. The proposed alternatives involve the broadcast of bait pellets, by helicopter with supplemental hand applications, containing the rodenticide diphacinone (followed by the rodenticide brodifacoum if necessary) or brodifacoum alone into all rat territories on Lehua Island. Rat eradication would occur in the summer dry season to maximize the probability of success by targeting the rats when food resources are lowest and rat abundance is declining. Conducting the operation during this period would also minimize the risk of rain washing rodenticide into the ocean. Residual bait pellets break down quickly in the environment and have low and extremely low solubility in water – less than 10 parts per million could ever be detected in water and any rodenticide that entered the water would sink to the ocean floor, minimizing time in the water column. Additionally, lab trials have demonstrated that fish are unlikely to ingest the residual bait. Once rats are confirmed to have been removed from the island, no additional rodenticide would be needed.

The proposed project minimizes risks to non-target species in multiple ways, including avoiding the nesting season of vulnerable seabirds, using equipment to reduce bait entry into the ocean, following permit restrictions and careful application of bait pellets by State of Hawai‘i certified pesticide applicators. The project aims to use the smallest amount of rodenticide necessary while minimizing the risks to other species.

The Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife, along with the diverse Lehua Island Restoration Steering Committee, previously released a draft environmental assessment via the State of Hawai‘i, Department of Health, Office of Environmental Control, to gather public comment and hosted several public meetings on Kaua‘i in March. That public comment period lasted for 30 days, beginning March 8, and was made available on http://health.hawaii.gov/oeqc/.

Representatives from the following conservation organizations, community groups and agencies support and advise the project management team for the restoration of Lehua Island and comprise the multidisciplinary Lehua Island Restoration Steering Committee:

Hawai‘i Dept. of Land and Natural Resources-Division of Forestry and Wildlife;
Island Conservation;
National Tropical Botanical Gardens;
Owners of Ni‘ihau;
U.S. Coast Guard;
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services; and
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Other project supporters include the Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, Pacific Rim Conservation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Bell Laboratories and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The partners and supporters especially acknowledge the contributions of the owners of Ni‘ihau and the Ni‘ihau community in helping to evaluate this restoration opportunity.

The draft EA is available for review at: www.fws.gov/pacificislands. Hardcopies are available by request, please send your request to: restore_lehua@fws.gov or via mail to: Attn: Restore_Lehua, USFWS - Pacific Islands Fish & Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Blvd, Ste. 3-122, Honolulu, HI, 96850

Public comments on the draft EA can be submitted via email: restore_lehua@fws.gov or via mail to: Attn: Restore_Lehua, USFWS - Pacific Islands Fish & Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Blvd, Ste. 3-122, Honolulu, HI, 96850

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
 

(All images/video courtesy: Hawai‘i DLNR unless otherwise stated)

 

Video News Release

HD aerials and SOTS

Aerial photographs of Lehua

Photographs of bait test trials (9-16-15)

Island Conservation Lehua Photographs (© Island Conservation)

Video News Release on bait test trials (9-16-15)

 


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