[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 210 (Tuesday, October 30, 2018)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 54561-54565]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2018-23697]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2007-0024; FXES11130900000C6-189-FF09E42000]
RIN 1018-AU96

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the 
Hawaiian Hawk From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; document availability and reopening of comment 


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
reopening of the public comment period on the August 6, 2008, proposed 
rule to remove the Hawaiian hawk or io (Buteo solitarius) from the List 
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (List) under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Comments submitted during the 
2008 comment period, 2009 reopened comment periods, and 2014 reopened 
comment period do not need to be resubmitted, and will be fully 
considered in preparation of our final rule. We are reopening the 
comment period once more to present information we have received since 
2014 that is relevant to our consideration of the status of the 
Hawaiian hawk. We encourage those who may have commented previously to 
submit additional comments, if appropriate, in light of this new 
information. In addition, we are also seeking input on considerations 
for post-delisting monitoring of the Hawaiian hawk. Our goal is to 
respond to comments and come to a final determination on the status of 
the Hawaiian hawk in the form of a final rule by the end of 2018.

DATES: The comment period for the proposed rule published August 6, 
2008, at 73 FR 45680 is reopened. To ensure that we are able to 
consider your comments and information, they must be received or 
postmarked no later than November 29, 2018. Please note that, if you 
are using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES, below), the 
deadline for submitting an electronic comment is 11:59 p.m. Eastern 
Time on this date. We may not be able to address or incorporate 
information that we receive after the above requested date.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R1-ES-2007-0024, 
which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click on the 
Search button. On the resulting page, in the Search panel on the left 
side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the 
Proposed Rule box to locate this document. You may submit a comment by 
clicking on ``Comment Now!'' Please ensure that you have found the 
correct rulemaking before submitting your comment.
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2007-0024, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3808.
    We request that you send comments only by the methods described 
above. We will post all comments on http://

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www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any 
personal information you provide us (see Public Comments, below, for 
more information).
    Document availability: The 2008 proposed delisting of the Hawaiian 
hawk, comments received during all the open comment periods, and the 
draft post-delisting monitoring plan (draft PDM plan) are available on 
http://www.regulations.gov. In addition, the supporting file for this 
proposed rule will be available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours, at the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife 
Office, 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 3-122, Honolulu, HI 96850; 
telephone 808-792-9400.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mary Abrams, Field Supervisor, 
telephone: 808-792-9400. Direct all questions or requests for 
additional information to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific 
Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 3-122, 
Honolulu, HI 96850. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.


Species Information and Previous Federal Actions

    On August 6, 2008, we published a proposed rule to delist the 
Hawaiian hawk (io) (73 FR 45680). Please refer to that proposed rule 
and the recovery plan (which can be found at: http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/recovery_plan/840509.pdf) for information about the Hawaiian hawk, its 
status, its threats, and a summary of factors affecting the species. 
Please refer to our February 12, 2014, notice to reopen the comment 
period for a summary of all previous Federal actions (79 FR 8413).
    Since the 2008 proposed rule, we opened three additional comment 
periods. During these comment periods, we received new or updated 
information on projected urban growth rates and conversion of 
agriculture lands to unsuitable Hawaiian hawk habitat; and potential 
effects of climate change (e.g., increased frequency or prolonged 
drought), rapid ohia death (ROD), and invasive plants (e.g., Psidium 
cattleianum (strawberry guava)) on Hawaiian hawk habitat. The majority 
of relevant information that has become available since our 2008 
proposal to delist the Hawaiian hawk comes from over 173 public 
comments, 4 independent peer reviews, comments from the State of Hawaii 
and county agencies and the National Park Service, recent publications, 
and further evaluation of existing information. Information pertaining 
to the status of the species that has become available to us since the 
2014 notice is provided below.

New Information

    Since the 2014 notice to reopen the comment period, we received 
updated information on trends in human population growth, urbanization, 
and land subdivision; biocontrol efforts for strawberry guava; impacts 
from ROD and climate change; and recent volcanic activity. We have also 
received some preliminary data from an in-house population viability 
assessment (PVA) (Vorsino and Nelson 2016, unpublished data). In 
addition, we are not aware of any changes in the status of the biofuel 
crop production or processing facility on the island since 2014 that 
would impact the status of the Hawaiian hawk.
    Although trends in urban and exurban growth, and land subdivision 
show upward movement, the rate of growth has slowed. Population growth 
for Hawaii County between 2010 and 2017 was 1.1 percent annually, 0.5 
percent lower than the 1.6 projection in 2012 (Hawaii Department of 
Business, Economic Development and Tourism (HDBEDT) 2018, in litt.). 
The number of new homes built per year has also decreased (County of 
Hawaii 2015, p. 146). Most urban and exurban growth is occurring in or 
adjacent to already developed areas (County of Hawaii 2015, p. 77, 
150). We expect residential and exurban construction for Hawaii County 
to continue at a similar pace in the foreseeable future as indicated by 
expected human population growth for Hawaii County and home 
construction for the island of Hawaii for the last three decades 
(County of Hawaii 2010, tables 16.1-16.13; County of Hawaii 2015, pp. 
144-146, 149-150; HDBEDT 2018, in litt.). Urban and exurban growth and 
subdivisions in Puna may slow even more due to the recent volcanic 
activity of Kilauea, which began in May 2018. The north Kona region has 
one of the highest urban and exurban growth rates on the island (County 
of Hawaii 2015, p. 11), as well as one of the highest densities of 
Hawaiian hawk (Gorresen et al. 2008, p. 42).
    Since the successful deployment in 2012 of a biocontrol agent for 
strawberry guava (the Brazilian scale insect, Tectococcus ovatus) 
during field trials, the State of Hawaii and other partners have been 
working to establish Tectococcus on strawberry guava invaded forests 
throughout the islands (Chaney and Johnson in HCC 2013, p. 74; Chaney 
and Johnson 2018, in litt.; Kerr 2018, pers. comm.). Currently, the 
insect is established and reproducing on strawberry guava at multiple 
forest sites on five islands (Hawaii, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, and Oahu) 
(Chaney and Johnson 2018, in litt.). Under favorable conditions, 
Tectococcus populations have increased rapidly and spread 33 to 262 
feet (10 to 80 meters) in a period of several months (Chaney and 
Johnson 2018, in litt.). The scale typically weakens the trees through 
its feeding, reducing the ability of the tree to fruit and set seed, 
thereby limiting its spread (U.S. Forest Service 2016, in litt.). The 
scale is not expected to kill already established trees (Hawaii 
Department of Agriculture 2011, in litt.). It is too early to know what 
effect this may have on guava tree vigor and rate of spread; however, 
infestations of Tectococcus are expected to spread gradually on the 
target plant, reaching damaging levels within a few years at each 
release site (Kerr 2018, pers. comm.). The Forest Service will continue 
to provide technical assistance and monitor the impacts of biocontrol. 
It is expected that a noticeable decrease in the spread of strawberry 
guava will be observed over a period of years (Kerr 2018, pers. comm.).
    Hawaiian hawks frequently nest in native ohia (Metrosideros 
polymorpha), an evergreen tree in the myrtle family. In 2013, 
landowners in lower Puna District noticed an increased rate of what was 
thought to be ohia dieback (Friday and Friday 2013, entire), a 
phenomenon where trees affected show progressive dieback accompanied by 
browning of the leaves, reduction in leaf size, and death of all or 
part of the crown (Hodges et al. 1986, p. ii.). Although ohia dieback 
may have been the culprit of some of the observed dieback leading up to 
the 2013 report (Friday and Friday 2013, entire), we now believe that 
at least some of this dieback was actually caused by ROD. In addition 
to the other information we request in Public Comments, below, we 
request new information on ROD and its potential or actual impact on 
Hawaiian hawk.
    Although new information shows negative habitat trends due to 
urbanization, nonnative plant species invasion, and ROD, efforts at 
habitat restoration that benefit the Hawaiian hawk are being 
implemented and are achieving success.
    Both State and private foresters report an increase in forest areas 
on the island of Hawaii, particularly in native forest areas (Koch and 
Walter 2018, in litt.). Starting at the turn of the century, several 
large landowners (private, Federal, and State) have ended their

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pastoral leases and are steadily promoting natural regeneration to take 
the place of old pastures (Koch and Walter 2018, in litt.). While we 
know this conversion is occurring, we do not have an exact number of 
acreage. Additionally, when economically feasible, many nonnative 
timber plantations in the State have begun planting native timber 
species, most often koa (Acacia koa), post-harvest (Koch and Walter 
2018, in litt; Walter 2018, pers. comm.). We do not have an exact 
number regarding this conversion, but we know it is ongoing. The 
suitability of koa plantations for Hawaiian hawk foraging and nesting 
has not been studied, and hawk use of these areas may be variable, 
because koa plantations likely differ in their suitability as hawk 
habitat depending upon age of koa stands, stand density, and overstory 
characteristics related to harvest methods used. A new forest planting 
project between Waimea and Ahualoa will convert 565 acres (ac) (229 
hectares (ha)) of grassland to koa and koa-ohia forests in the next 10 
years (Koch and Walter 2018, in litt.).
    There has also been a marked increase in protection of native 
forests-which combined with an increase in forest areas results in 
increased protection for the Hawaiian hawk by protecting potential 
nesting, breeding, and hunting habitat. Several large conservation 
efforts across the island are being implemented by Federal, State, and 
private landowners, often in collaborative efforts.
    Fencing and ungulate removal at Puu Waawaa Forest Bird Sanctuary 
and parts of the State's Natural Area Reserve System contribute to 
Hawaiian hawk habitat restoration (Gorresen et al. 2008, p. 26) because 
it helps control the spread of invasive plants such as strawberry guava 
as well as contributes toward the natural regeneration of native or 
native exotic mixed habitat which in turn provides potential nesting, 
breeding, and foraging opportunities for the hawk. The Kohala Watershed 
Partnership, Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance, and TMA, which collectively 
encompass approximately 1,688,300 ac (675,137 ha) on Hawaii, have been 
fencing, outplanting native plants, and removing nonnative species 
since 2003, 2008, and 2009, respectively (http://hawp.org/). Currently, 
these entities conduct restoration actions on over 80,000 ac (32,374 
ha) of forest area on Hawaii (TMA 2007, p. 41; Hawaii Department of 
Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) 2011, p. 16; State of Hawaii 2012, 
pp. 43-44; State of Hawaii 2017, pp. 1-6; Cole 2018, in litt.; Dwight 
2018, in litt.; Perry 2018, in litt.; http://hawp.org/). This value is 
likely an underestimate as there are so many partners conducting 
restoration activities that it is difficult to know exactly how many 
acres are being managed by each entity. Additional activities 
implemented by the three watershed partnerships on the island of Hawaii 
include programs that implement fencing inspections and necessary 
replacements, native species surveys, greenhouse and plant propagation, 
prevention of the spread of ROD, and outreach (TMA 2007, p. 41; DLNR 
2011, p. 16; State of Hawaii 2012, pp. 43-44; State of Hawaii 2017, pp. 
1-6; Cole 2018, in litt.; Dwight 2018, in litt.; Perry 2018, in litt.; 
    In 2016, the Governor of Hawaii initiated the Sustainable Hawaii 
Initiative (Initiative) in response to the 2016 World Conservation 
Congress Legacy Commitment to protect 30 percent (253,000 ac (102,385 
ha)) of Hawaii's highest priority watershed forests by 2030 (http://governor.hawaii.gov/sustainable-hawaii-initiative/). Through this 
Initiative, the amount of priority watershed areas under high level of 
protection has increased from 10 to approximately 15 percent (http://governor.hawaii.gov/sustainable-hawaii-initiative/; State of Hawaii 
2017, in litt.; https://dashboard.hawaii.gov/en/stat/goals/5xhf-begg/4s33-f5iv/wtjm-96jt). The Initiative has outplanted 20,000 native 
trees, and increased invasive plant control by 130,000 ac (52,609 ha) 
(State of Hawaii 2017, in litt). In addition, the Hawaii Department of 
Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), with funding from the Initiative, 
constructed 22 miles (35 kilometers) of fencing in the Kau watershed, 
and fenced 24,000 ac (9,712 ha) in the Manuka NAR, to protect these 
areas from the negative impacts of pigs and other ungulates (Smith 
2013, in litt.; State of Hawaii 2014, p. 1). These measures benefit the 
Hawaiian hawk by securing potential nesting, breeding, and hunting 
    Over the past 6 years, the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative 
(HLRI) has converted 1,000 ac (405 ha) of denuded pastureland into an 
intact ecosystem with over 300,000 endemic trees (e.g., ohia, milo 
(Thespesia populnea), sandalwood (Santalum species), and koa), 
outplanted and a plans to outplant approximately 700,000 more endemic 
trees over the coming years (HLRI 2018, in litt.; https://legacytrees.org/).
    Additional ongoing conservation efforts (e.g., nonnative plant and 
animal removal, fencing, and outplanting native species) are 
implemented by, but not limited to, the Nahelehele Dryland Forest 
Restoration program (http://www.drylandforest.org/), partnerships 
working in the Puu Waawaa watershed (e.g., the multi-agency Hawaii 
Experimental Tropical Forest (http://www.hetf.us/page/home/)), The 
Nature Conservancy's Kona Hema Preserve (https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/hawaii/placesweprotect/kona-hema.xml), Hawaii Volcano's National Park, Hakalau 
National Wildlife Refuge, and the Statewide Sustainable Hawaii 
Initiative (https://governor.hawaii.gov/sustainable-hawaii-initiative/
). Additionally, there are many State Natural Area Reserves and Forest 
Reserves, and several wildlife sanctuaries that provide additional 
forest areas for Hawaiian hawks and other native species; however 
because hunting is allowed on many of the Natural Area Reserves and 
Forest Reserves, they are not maintained solely as protected areas for 
native species (https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/recreation/hunting/). As 
previously mentioned, forested areas, particularly native forest areas, 
are increasing on the island of Hawaii (Koch and Walter, 2018, in 
litt.); however we do not have an exact number to quantify this 
    At the onset of the most recent Kilauea volcano eruption (May 
2018), primarily private lands were impacted; however, more recently 
the ongoing eruption has impacted native forest areas. In June 2018, 
the 1,514 ac (613 ha) Malama Ki Forest Reserve (FR) and surrounding 
areas were either buried by acres of lava or scorched by fumes of 
sulphur dioxide (Bergfield 2018, in litt.; KHON2 2018, in litt.). This 
area previously provided habitat for endangered forest birds and 
plants, and other native species. We do not have an exact number of how 
much native forest has been, or will be, lost as the eruption is 
ongoing. The Kilauea eruption is so far concentrated to the East Rift 
Zone area (USGS 2018, in litt.).
    The island of Hawaii, like the island chain, has fortunately evaded 
most hurricanes due to the surrounding cool water. An exception 
occurred in 2014 with Hurricane Iselle. Although Hurricane Iselle 
morphed into a tropical storm before making landfall on the island, it 
caused extensive canopy loss in some regions of the island (Federal 
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 2014, in litt.). Iselle was the 
strongest tropical storm to make landfall on the island of Hawaii in 
recorded history. In 2016, Hurricane Darby made landfall on the island 
of Hawaii but as a much weaker tropical storm. While

[[Page 54564]]

both of these hurricanes caused canopy loss in some regions of the 
island, no analysis has been done to determine impacts to Hawaiian hawk 
habitat. Recent data indicate that Hawaii may experience an increase in 
hurricane frequency and intensity due to increases of both ocean 
surface temperatures and El Ni[ntilde]o events associated with a 
warming global climate system (Cai et al. 2015, pp. 1, 4-5; Herring et 
al. 2015, p. Sii; Knutson et al. 2015, p. 7222; Murakami et al. 2015, 
p. S118; Wing et al. 2015, pp. 8673-8676; Fletcher 2016, p. 14).
    A preliminary female specific stochastic PVA model for the Hawaiian 
hawk was developed (Vorsino and Nelson 2016, unpublished data) using 
the mean and variance values of age-specific survival and fecundity 
(ability and willingness to produce offpring) in native, mixed native-
exotic, and exotic habitat (Gorresen et al. 2008, p. 15; Klavitter et 
al. 2003, p. 170). Population viability was assessed for optimal and 
sub-optimal habitats, where population partitioning was based on 
Hawaiian hawk densities within the habitat types (optimal/sub-optimal) 
reported in Gorresen et al. (2008, p. 15). The effect of catastrophic 
weather events on the viability of Hawaiian hawk in these various 
habitat types was also projected and assessed. None of the projected 
PVAs showed a Hawaiian hawk population that declined to either zero, or 
below a quasi-extinction threshold of 50 individuals, when projected 
over 30 years across 500 model iterations.
    Current analysis of biodiesel fuel development indicates that 
construction and testing of facilities on the island of Hawaii has 
plateaued at 2014 levels, with just one biodiesel facility on the 
island. In addition to the other information we request in Public 
Comments below, we request new information on the actual conversion of 
agricultural land to crops for biodiesel fuel production, including 
former and current crop type and acreage.

Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us, in cooperation with the 
States, to implement a monitoring program for not less than 5 years for 
all species that have been delisted due to recovery. The purpose of 
this requirement is to develop a program that detects the failure of 
any delisted species to sustain itself without the protective measures 
provided by the Act. If, at any time during the monitoring period, data 
indicate that protective status under the Act should be reinstated, we 
can initiate listing procedures, including, if appropriate, emergency 
    The Service has developed a draft post-delisting monitoring (PDM) 
plan for Hawaiian hawk in cooperation with the State of Hawaii 
Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and 
Wildlife (DOFAW); the National Park Service (NPS); and the U.S. 
Geological Survey, Ecosystem Mission Area (formerly the Biological 
Resources Division). The draft PDM plan includes monitoring the 
Hawaiian hawk population every 5 years for 20 years and is designed to 
verify that the Hawaiian hawk remains secure from risk of extinction 
after its removal from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife. While not required, with this notice, we are again soliciting 
public comments and peer review on the draft PDM plan, which can be 
found on http://www.regulations.gov at docket number FWS-R1-ES-2007-
0024. We are particularly interested in monitoring information 
pertaining to Hawaiian hawk habitat in light of ROD and strawberry 
guava. All comments on the draft PDM plan from the public and peer 
reviewers will be considered and incorporated into the final PDM plan 
as appropriate.

Public Comments

    We intend that any final action resulting from the proposal will be 
based on the best scientific and commercial data available and will be 
as accurate and effective as possible. To ensure our determination is 
based on the best available scientific and commercial information, we 
request information on the Hawaiian hawk from governmental agencies, 
native Hawaiian groups, the scientific community, industry, and any 
other interested parties. We request comments or suggestions on our 
August 6, 2008 (73 FR 45680), proposal to delist the Hawaiian hawk; our 
draft PDM plan; new information presented in this Federal Register 
document; and any other information. Specifically, we seek information 
    (1) The species' biology, range, and population trends, including:
    (a) Life history, ecology, and habitat use of the Hawaiian hawk, as 
well as the species' use of koa plantations and exurban areas;
    (b) Range, distribution, population size, and population trends;
    (c) Positive and negative effects of current and foreseeable land 
management practices on the Hawaiian hawk, including conservation 
efforts associated with watershed partnerships (e.g., The Rain Follows 
the Forest initiative and the Governor's Sustainable Hawaii 
Initiative); patterns of land subdivision and development; effects on 
native forest of introduced plant species; conversion of land to 
biodiesel production, forestry, and diversified agriculture; and 
potential effects of biocontrol efforts on strawberry guava;
    (d) Potential effects of temperature and rainfall change on fire 
frequency and intensity and forest type and distribution;
    (e) Potential impacts of ROD and climate change (e.g., increased 
frequency or prolonged drought); and
    (f) Potential impacts of the recent Kilauea Volcano eruptions.
    (2) The factors, as detailed in the August 6, 2008, proposed rule 
(73 FR 45680), that are the basis for making a listing/delisting/
downlisting determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Act, 
which are:
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (c) Disease or predation;
    (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
    (3) Input or considerations for post-delisting monitoring of the 
Hawaiian hawk.
    You may submit your information by one of the methods listed in 
ADDRESSES. If you submit information via http://www.regulations.gov, 
your entire submission--including any personal identifying 
information--will be posted on the website. If you submit a hardcopy 
that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the 
top of your document that we withhold this personal identifying 
information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we 
will be able to do so. We will post all hardcopy submissions on http://www.regulations.gov.
    Information and supporting documentation that we receive and use in 
preparing the proposal will be available for you to review at http://www.regulations.gov, or you may make an appointment during normal 
business hours at the Service's Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife 
    If you submitted comments or information previously on the August 
6, 2008, proposed rule (73 FR 45680); the February 11, 2009, document 
that made available our draft PDM plan (74 FR 6853); the June 5, 2009, 
publication announcing public hearings and reopening the proposal's and 
draft PDM

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plan's comment period (74 FR 27004); or the February 12, 2014, 
publication reopening the proposal's and draft PDM plan's comment 
period (79 FR 8413), please do not resubmit them. These comments have 
been incorporated into the public record and will be fully considered 
in the preparation of our final determination.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited is available on the internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Service's Pacific 
Islands Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).


    The primary authors of this document are staff of the Service's 
Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: August 14, 2018.
James W. Kurth,
Deputy Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Exercising the 
Authority of the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2018-23697 Filed 10-29-18; 8:45 am]