Department of the Interior
Contact: Barbara Maxfield - 808/541-2749 or 808/342-5600
Sept. 3, 1999
TEN PLANTS FROM MAUI NUI ADDED
TO ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today listed 10 Hawaiian plants that exist only in the Maui Nui group of islands as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. A species is designated as endangered when it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
The Maui Nui group of islands includes Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe. At one time, when the sea level was lower, these islands were a single island called Maui Nui. The ten plants and their distribution on the islands are described in the attached Table 1.
Eight of the newly listed plants exist in only a few remaining populations, including one plant with just two remaining individuals. Threats to the 10 newly listed plants include habitat destruction by feral animals, including goats, pigs, and deer; competition by invasive vegetation; and chance events such as hurricanes and fires. The threats facing the plants are summarized in the attached Table 2.
"By adding these plant species to the list, we are trying to protect more of Hawaii's unique natural resources," said Anne Badgley, the Regional Director for the Service's Pacific region. "As in many places around the world, plants play an important role in the local culture, and they deserve protection for future generations."
"By protecting these species, other native plants and animals in the area will benefit too," Badgley said. "Many of the threats causing the decline of these plant species also are affecting native wildlife such as forest birds, tree snails, and insects."
Perhaps the most famous of the ten plants is Kanaloa kahoolawensis, discovered in 1992 by two botanists from the National Tropical Botanical Garden during a survey of the Island of Kahoolawe, soon after the State of Hawaii assumed ownership of the island from the military. This small shrub in the legume family survived many years of practice bombing by the military as well as destruction of the island's vegetation by an overpopulation of goats.
Only two living individual plants have been discovered, both on a rock stack on the southern coast of Kahoolawe that is almost completely separated from the island. The location's inaccessibility to goats may have allowed the plant's survival. Although goats have been removed from the island, this new plant genus is threatened today by landslides and competition from the invasive plants.
A recovery plan for all ten species will be developed, and other recovery actions are anticipated. Under State contract with the National Tropical Botanical Garden, seeds of one of the plant species listed, the Kanaloa, have been harvested and plants are being propagated. Some of the plants, particularly those on Federal or State lands, also have been fenced to protect them from predation by feral pigs and goats.
The Service's decision to list the species was published in today's Federal Register. The Endangered Species Act does not prohibit "take" of listed plants on private lands, but landowners must comply with State laws protecting imperiled plants. Federal agencies must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when funding or permitting activities may affect listed species.
Native plants are important for their ecological, economic, and aesthetic values. Plants play an important role in the development of crops that resist disease, insects and drought. At least 25 percent of prescription drugs contain ingredients derived from plant compounds, including medicine used to treat cancer, heart disease, juvenile leukemia, and malaria, as well as that used to assist organ transplants. Plants are also used to develop natural pesticides.
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TABLE 1. SUMMARY OF ISLAND DISTRIBUTION OF THE 10 SPECIES
TABLE 2. SUMMARY OF PRIMARY THREATS
The Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprising more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.