[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 56 (Thursday, March 25, 2021)]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-05846]
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17
[Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2020-0079; FF09E22000 FXES11130900000 212]
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reclassification
of the Hawaiian Stilt From Endangered to Threatened With a Section 4(d)
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Proposed rule.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to
reclassify (downlist) the Hawaiian stilt (Himantopus mexicanus
knudseni) from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species
Act of 1973, as amended (Act). After a review of the best available
scientific and commercial information, we find that the subspecies'
status has improved such that it is not currently in danger of
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, but
that it is still likely to become so in the foreseeable future. We also
propose a rule under section 4(d) of the Act that provides for the
conservation of the Hawaiian stilt. Additionally, we also recognize the
name ``aeo'' as an alternative common name.
DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before May
24, 2021. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal
eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES, below) must be received by 11:59
p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. We
must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address
shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by May 10, 2021.
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-2020-0079,
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, check the Proposed
Rule box to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking
on ``Comment Now!''
(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: Public Comments
Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2020-0079, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
We request that you send comments only by the methods described
above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide
us (see Public Comments, Information Requested, below, for more
Availability of supporting materials: This proposed rule and
supporting documents, including the 5-year review and the Recovery
Plan, are available at https://www.fws.gov/Pacificislands/ and at
http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2020-0079.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Katherine Mullett, Field Supervisor,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife
Office, 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 3-122, Honolulu, HI 96850;
telephone 808-792-9400. Persons who use a telecommunications device for
the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.
Why We Need To Publish a Rule
Under the Act, a species may warrant reclassification from
endangered to threatened if it no longer meets the definition of
endangered (in danger of extinction). The Hawaiian stilt is listed as
endangered, and we are proposing to reclassify (downlist) the Hawaiian
stilt as threatened because we have determined is it not currently in
danger of extinction. Reclassifying a species can only be completed by
issuing a rulemaking.
What This Document Does
This rule proposes to downlist the Hawaiian stilt from endangered
to threatened on the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened
Wildlife, based on the species' current status, which has been improved
through implementation of conservation actions. In addition, we propose
in this rule to prohibit certain activities in relation to the species
under section 4(d) of the Act.
The Basis for Our Action
Under the Act, we may determine that a species is an endangered
species or a threatened species because of any of five factors: (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 existence. We may reclassify a
species if the best available commercial and scientific data indicate
the species no longer meets the applicable definition in the Act. For
the reasons discussed below, we have determined that the Hawaiian stilt
is no longer in danger of extinction and, therefore, does not meet the
definition of an endangered species, but is still affected by the
following current and ongoing threats to the extent that the species
meets the definition of a threatened species under the Act:
Habitat degradation, destruction, and modification due to
urban development, altered ground and surface water, nonnative plants,
and coastal inundation and groundwater flooding due to sea level rise;
Predation by nonnative animals such as mongooses, black
rats, feral cats, feral dogs, bullfrogs, black-crowned night herons,
cattle egrets, and barn owls, and native animals such as the Hawaiian
Disease, primarily botulism caused by the bacterium
Clostridium botulinum (type C);
Environmental contaminants resulting from human
Stochastic events such as hurricanes, which are
anticipated to increase in frequency and intensity.
We Are Proposing To Promulgate a Section 4(d) Rule
In the 4(d) rule, we propose to prohibit all intentional take and
most incidental take of the Hawaiian stilt under section 9(a)(1) of the
Act with a few specific exceptions to allow incidental take as a means
to further the conservation and recovery of the species by providing
management flexibilities for our State, Federal, and private partners.
Additionally, these exceptions will help to guide Hawaiian stilts away
from hazardous habitat and toward habitat managed to meet the species'
individual and species-level needs.
Because we will consider all comments and information we receive
during the comment period, our final determinations may differ from
this proposal. Based on the new information we receive (and any
comments on that new information), we may conclude that the species
should remain listed as endangered instead of being reclassified as
threatened, or we may conclude that the species no longer warrants
listing as either an endangered species or a threatened species. In
addition, we may change the parameters of the prohibitions and
conservation measures in the 4(d) rule if we conclude it is appropriate
in light of comments and new information received. For example, we may
expand the incidental-take prohibitions to include prohibiting
activities that these proposed regulations would allow if we conclude
that additional activities are likely to cause direct injury or
mortality to the species. Conversely, we may establish additional
exceptions to the incidental-take prohibitions so as to allow
activities that this proposed rule would prohibit if we conclude that
the activities would not cause direct injury or mortality to the
species and will facilitate the conservation and recovery of the
species. Such final decisions would be a logical outgrowth of this
We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule
will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request
comments or information from other concerned governmental agencies,
Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any
other interested parties concerning this proposed rule.
We particularly seek comments concerning:
(1) Reasons we should or should not reclassify the Hawaiian stilt
as a threatened species.
(2) New information on the historical and current status, range,
distribution, and population size of the Hawaiian stilt.
(3) New information on the known and potential threats to the
Hawaiian stilt, including predation; urban
development, nonnative plants, alterations in surface or ground water;
data on avian botulism; contaminants; impacts associated with climate
change; or trends in the status and abundance of wetlands used by the
(4) New information regarding the life history, ecology, and
habitat use of the Hawaiian stilt.
(5) Current or planned activities within the geographic range of
the Hawaiian stilt that may have adverse or beneficial impacts on the
(6) Information on regulations that are necessary and advisable to
provide for the conservation of the Hawaiian stilt and that the Service
can consider in developing a 4(d) rule for the subspecies.
(7) Information concerning the extent to which we should include
any of the section 9 prohibitions in the 4(d) rule or whether any other
forms of take should be excepted from the prohibitions in the 4(d)
Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as
scientific journal articles or other publications) to allow us to
verify any scientific or commercial information you include.
Please note that submissions merely stating support for, or
opposition to, the action under consideration without providing
supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in
making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that
determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or a
threatened species must be made ``solely on the basis of the best
scientific and commercial data available.'' You may submit your
comments and materials concerning this proposed rule by one of the
methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request that you send comments only by
the methods described 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 your submission is made via a hardcopy
that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the
top of your document that we withhold this 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.
Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting
documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be
available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, under
Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2020-0079.
Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for a public hearing on this
proposal, if requested. Requests must be received by the date specified
in DATES. Such requests must be sent to the address shown in FOR
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. We will schedule a public hearing on this
proposal, if requested, and announce the date, time, and place of the
hearing, as well as how to obtain reasonable accommodations, in the
Federal Register and local newspapers at least 15 days before the
hearing. For the immediate future, we will provide these public
hearings using webinars that will be announced on the Service's
website, in addition to the Federal Register. The use of these virtual
public hearings is consistent with our regulation at 50 CFR
In accordance with our policy, ``Notice of Interagency Cooperative
Policy for Peer Review in Endangered Species Act Activities,'' which
was published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270) and our August 22, 2016,
Director's Memorandum ``Peer Review Process,'' we will seek the expert
opinion of at least three appropriate and independent specialists
regarding scientific data and interpretations contained in this
proposed rule. We will send copies of this proposed rule to the peer
reviewers immediately following publication in the Federal Register. We
will ensure that the opinions of peer reviewers are objective and
unbiased by following the guidelines set forth in the Director's Memo,
which updates and clarifies Service policy on peer review (U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service 2016a). The purpose of such review is to ensure
that our decisions are based on scientifically sound data, assumptions,
and analysis. Accordingly, our final decision may differ from this
Previous Federal Actions
The Hawaiian stilt was listed as an endangered species under the
Act on October 13, 1970 (35 FR 16047). A recovery plan for four
Hawaiian waterbirds, including the Hawaiian stilt, was issued in 1978
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) 1978, entire), and the first
revision of this plan was issued in 1985. The final Recovery Plan for
Hawaiian Waterbirds, Second Revision (Service 2011, entire), was made
publicly available January 19, 2012 (77 FR 2753). We completed the most
recent 5-year review of the subspecies in March 2020, in which we
recommended downlisting the Hawaiian stilt (Service 2020, entire). This
document serves as our proposed rule to reclassify the Hawaiian stilt
from endangered to threatened based on the recommendation in our 2020
Proposed Reclassification Determination
A thorough review of the biological information on Hawaiian stilts
including taxonomy, life history, ecology, and conservation activities,
as well as threats facing the subspecies or its habitat is presented in
our recent Hawaiian stilt 5-year review (USFWS 2020, entire) and the
Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Waterbirds (USFWS 2011, entire), which are
available at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-
2020-0079. The following is a summary of the best available information
on Hawaiian stilts. Please refer to the 2020 5-year review and 2011
recovery plan for additional discussion and background information.
Taxonomy and Species Description
The Hawaiian stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni) is a waterbird
endemic to the Hawaiian Islands (Stejneger 1887, entire). Another
commonly accepted name for the Hawaiian stilt is the aeo (from a
Hawaiian name for the bird and word for stilts). The Hawaiian stilt is
widely recognized as a subspecies of the black-necked stilt Himantopus
mexicanus (American Ornithology Union (AOU) 1998). It is black and
white with long, pink legs (Bryan 1901, p. 26; Shallenberger 1977, p.
24), is slender in appearance, and grows to about 16 inches (in) (40
centimeters (cm)) in height. Plumage is black on the back, and white on
the front and underside of the bird. Juveniles have a brownish back,
and more extensive white on the cheeks and forehead than adults. Chicks
are well camouflaged in a downy plumage that is tan with black
speckling (Coleman 1981, pp. 33, 35, 86-87). The Hawaiian stilt is a
long-lived vertebrate, as the life span of the Hawaiian Stilt can reach
at least 30 years (Reed et al. 2014, p. 4).
Range, Abundance, and Population Trends
Hawaiian stilts were historically known from all the main Hawaiian
Islands (i.e., Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe,
and Hawaii) except Lanai (until recently) and Kahoolawe. Hawaiian
stilts move between islands, based on observations of sudden large
increases in numbers at certain sites (from several hundred to a
thousand or more), and concomitant
decreases at other sites, including certain wetlands over the years
(Engilis and Pratt 1993, pp. 142, 156, 148; Banko 1988, p. 6). Hawaiian
stilts began colonizing the island of Lanai following developments
during the 1980s, including construction of a water treatment plant
that provided foraging and breeding habitat (Engilis and Pratt 1993, p.
147; Pyle and Pyle 2017, unpaginated). The subspecies consists of one
single population dispersed across the main Hawaiian Islands (except
Kahoolawe), and individuals move freely between wetlands both within
and between islands (Munro 1944, pp. 59-60; Telfer and Burr 1979, p. 8;
Coleman 1981, pp. 7-8; Reed et al. 1998a, pp. 36, 38; Reed et al.
1998b, pp. 791-796; Battista 2008, p. 2; Nishimoto 2014, p. 3; Paxton
and Kawasaki 2015, in litt.; Dibben-Young 2017, in litt.). Hawaiian
stilts disperse readily, exploit seasonally flooded wetlands, and
readily colonize newly restored or created habitats (van Rees et al.
2020, p. 3). The population naturally fluctuates according to climatic
and hydrologic conditions (Banko 1988, pp. 2-7; Engilis and Pratt 1993,
pp. 145, 147; Reed et al. 1998b, pp. 791-797). Because the subspecies
consists of one large population, any discussion regarding the
subspecies' needs (below) also addresses the population's needs.
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of
Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) conducts a biannual waterbird population
census (count), and those data offer the best available information to
assess trend and abundance of the subspecies (DOFAW 2020). Data were
available from 1986 through 2017 for our analysis. The DOFAW surveys
take place Statewide on a single day in the winter and a single day in
the summer to try to avoid counting the same birds twice. Niihau is no
longer included in the counts as it is a privately owned island that
has not been surveyed since 1999; this island shares birds seasonally
with Kauai (Engilis and Pratt 1993, p. 156). However, periodic low
numbers on Kauai are often due to Hawaiian stilts moving to Niihau,
particularly in years with increased precipitation (Laut, 2020, pers.
Winter and summer surveys for Hawaiian stilts show a fluctuating
population, which generally increased from 1987 to 2004 and since then
has been roughly stable at 1,500 to 2,000 individuals. Years where
counts surpassed 2,000 individuals have been followed in the subsequent
year by a decrease of 300 to 700 birds (DOFAW 2020).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP25MR21.005
Variability in population count numbers can be partially explained
by variation in reproductive success (Engilis and Pratt 1993, p. 155)
and predation. Summer counts are generally more variable than winter
counts due to the variability in hatch-year bird survival (Reed and
Oring 1993, pp. 1, 57; Reed et al. 2011b, p. 475). Given that the
Hawaiian stilt is conspicuous and most wetlands are surveyed during the
Statewide waterbird surveys, the data provide a fairly reliable index
of overall population abundance and indicate that the population
continues to be stable or increasing with short-term fluctuations (Reed
et al. 2011b, pp. 475-476, 478-479; USFWS 2011, p. iv; DOFAW 2020).
Using indices to monitor abundance can make detecting changes in
populations difficult, potentially masking declines (Staples 2005, p.
1909). We recognize this limitation but conclude the use of this data
represents the best available information to ascertain status, trends,
and abundance of this subspecies.
Habitat and Life History Requirements
The Hawaiian stilt primarily occurs from sea level up to 656 feet
(ft) (200 meters (m)) in elevation, in natural and human-made lowland
coastal wetlands (Perkins 1903, p. 452; Shallenberger 1977, pp. 23-25;
Coleman 1981, pp. 8-18; Griffin et al. 1989, p. 1169; Engilis and Pratt
1993, pp. 155-156; Evans et al. 1994, p. 6; USFWS 2005, p. 31; USFWS
2011, pp. 50-60). However, Hawaiian stilts are not restricted to
lowland coastal wetlands as they have been observed at slightly higher
elevations and outside of the coastal wetlands, such as foothill
impoundments, reservoirs, and other wetlands (USFWS 2005, pp. 28-29;
Kawasaki et al. 2020, p. 431). Hawaiian stilts use areas of sparse,
low-growing (up to 18 in (46 cm) tall) perennial vegetation or exposed
tidal flats for nesting and breeding, and sometimes foraging (Smith and
Polhemus 2003, p. 61; United States Department of Agriculture-Natural
Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) 2009, p. 5 and Appendix B;
2007, pp. 70-71; Reed et al. 2011a, pp. 3, 4). The most common foraging
depth for adults appears to be 5 in (13 cm) or less below the surface
of the water (Ohashi and Burr 1977, p. 3; Smith and Polhemus 2003, pp.
60-61; Gee 2007, p. 62; Reed et al. 2011a, pp. 3-4). Shallow water
(approximately 2-3 in (7.6 cm)) and wet mudflats are particularly
important for foraging chicks (Morin 1998, p. 11; USDA-NRCS 2009, p. 4;
Reed et al. 2011a, p. 4; Reed 2017, in litt.).
Hawaiian stilts typically begin breeding at age two (Reed et al.
1998a, p. 36). Nests are simple scrapes on the ground (Coleman 1981, p.
53; Smith and Polhemus 2003, p. 61; Gee 2007, p. 98). Pairs usually lay
three to four eggs that are incubated for approximately 24 days
(Coleman 1981, p. 56; Chang 1990, p. 43). Chicks are precocial, leaving
the nest within 24 hours of hatching. After the last chick hatches,
parents lead their brood to shallow feeding areas (Coleman 1981, p.
77). Chicks fledge approximately 28 days post-hatching (Reed et al.
1999, p. 478), and young may remain with both parents for several
months after hatching (Coleman 1981, pp. 83-84). Parents are extremely
aggressive toward unrelated young (Robinson et al. 1999, pp. 11-13).
During the nesting season, incubating pairs move between their nest
site and a foraging area (USFWS 2011, p. 60). Foraging areas may be
directly adjacent to the nest site or quite a distance away (Coleman
1981, p. 77; Engilis and Pratt 1993, pp. 155-156; Reed and Oring 1993,
p. 57). Food availability is at least one factor that drives foraging
at greater distances from the nest site (Reed and Oring 1993, p. 57).
Adults with 3-day-old chicks have been observed foraging 0.3 mile (mi)
(1.5 kilometer (km)) from the nest site (Reed and Oring 1993, p. 57).
Within a few hours of the last chick hatching, parents lead their brood
to shallow feeding areas that may be the same feeding areas used by the
adults during incubation (Coleman 1981, p. 77).
Hawaiian stilts are opportunistic feeders. They eat a wide variety
of invertebrates and other aquatic organisms found in shallow water and
mudflats (Perkins 1903, p. 452; Shallenberger 1977, pp. 23-25; Robinson
et al. 1999, pp. 8-9; USFWS 2011, p. 58). They also sometimes forage in
grasslands adjacent to wetlands. Managed wetlands with desirable water
depth are common foraging sites (Underwood et al. 2013, p. 6). Hawaiian
stilts move intraisland and interisland as they exploit food resources
(Engilis and Pratt 1993, pp. 155-156).
We consider the specific breeding and rearing conditions described
above as necessary for both individual and subspecies needs. The
Hawaiian stilt is considered a conservation-reliant subspecies (Reed et
al. 2012, p. 888; Underwood et al. 2013, p. 1), which means that it
will require active management into perpetuity because of our inability
to eliminate the dominant threats (Scott et al. 2005, pp. 383-389;
Scott et al. 2010, pp. 92-93: Goble et al. 2012, pp. 869-872). It is
also considered conservation-reliant because it relies almost solely
upon managed wetlands for successful nesting and breeding (Reed et al.
2012, p. 888; Underwood et al. 2013, p. 1). The accepted management
regime for creating and maintaining optimal Hawaiian stilt breeding and
rearing habitat has three major components: Control of invasive
introduced plant species; manipulation of water levels to mimic natural
hydrological processes and benefit life-history needs; and control of
predators (USFWS 2011, pp. 163-169; Underwood et al. 2014, p. 32 and
supporting references). More information on the subspecies' management
dependency is presented in the Summary of Biological Status and
Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and implement
recovery plans for the conservation and survival of endangered and
threatened species unless we determine that such a plan will not
promote the conservation of the species. Recovery plans must, to the
maximum extent practicable, include ``objective, measurable criteria
which, when met, would result in a determination, in accordance with
the provisions [of section 4 of the Act], that the species be removed
from the list.''
Recovery plans provide a roadmap for us and our partners on methods
of enhancing conservation and minimizing threats to listed species, as
well as measurable criteria against which to evaluate progress towards
recovery and assess the species' likely future condition. However, they
are not regulatory documents and do not substitute for the
determinations and promulgation of regulations required under section
4(a)(1) of the Act. A decision to revise the status of a species, or to
delist a species, is ultimately based on an analysis of the best
scientific and commercial data available to determine whether a species
is no longer an endangered species or a threatened species, regardless
of whether that information differs from the recovery plan.
There are many paths to accomplishing recovery of a species, and
recovery may be achieved without all of the criteria in a recovery plan
being fully met. For example, one or more criteria may be exceeded
while other criteria may not yet be accomplished.
In that instance, we may determine that the threats are minimized
sufficiently and that the species is robust enough that it no longer
meets the definition of an endangered species or a threatened species.
In other cases, we may discover new recovery opportunities after having
finalized the recovery plan. Parties seeking to conserve the species
may use these opportunities instead of methods identified in the
recovery plan. Likewise, we may learn new information about the species
after we finalize the recovery plan. The new information may change the
extent to which existing criteria are appropriate for identifying
recovery of the species. The recovery of a species is a dynamic process
requiring adaptive management that may, or may not, follow all of the
guidance provided in a recovery plan.
For the purposes of this discussion, we assess the progress of
Hawaiian stilt recovery relative to recovery targets in the second
revision of the Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Waterbirds (Service 2011,
entire). The 2011 revision included more specific recovery
recommendations for Hawaiian stilt and modified population target
levels. In developing recovery criteria for the Hawaiian stilt, we used
a 1998 population viability analysis (PVA) for the subspecies (see Reed
et al. 1998a, entire) as the basis for population target levels. For
recovery criteria for the Hawaiian stilt, we also assessed and
categorized wetlands on each island into core and supporting wetlands.
Core wetlands provide habitat essential for the larger populations of
Hawaiian waterbirds that comprise the bulk of the numbers prescribed
for recovery. Supporting wetlands are additional areas that provide
habitat important for smaller populations or provide habitat needed
seasonally by segments of the population during part of their life
cycle. Wetlands identified as ``protected'' (whether core, supporting,
or neither) are those considered secure from development. In general,
protected wetlands are National Wildlife Refuges (NWR), State-owned
wildlife sanctuaries, or mitigation wetlands, where the primary purpose
of management is wildlife conservation or does not conflict with the
goal of wildlife conservation. The core and supporting wetlands
identified in the
2011 recovery plan are the sites on each island that provide the
greatest potential for recovery of Hawaiian stilts (USFWS 2011, p. 114;
USFWS 2020 pp. 2-3).
The overall goal for recovery of the Hawaiian stilt is to restore
and maintain multiple self-sustaining populations within the
subspecies' historical range (Service 2011, p. 120). The plan provides
four criteria for reclassifying the Hawaiian stilt from endangered to
threatened status and two additional criteria for delisting the
subspecies. We describe and assess the recovery criteria as they relate
to evaluating the status of the Hawaiian stilt below.
Criterion 1 for Downlisting
Criterion 1 states that all core wetlands on the island groups of
Kauai-Niihau, Oahu, Maui-Molokai, and Hawaii are protected and managed
in accordance with the management practices outlined in the recovery
plan (Service 2011, pp. 124, 126, 163-165). The plan states that it is
crucial for wetlands at these sites to be secure from conversion to
non-wetland condition and to have sufficient enduring management to
recover Hawaii's waterbirds.
Currently, of the recovery plan's 17 identified core wetlands, 14
are protected from development and have some predator and habitat
management activities in place. Only 3 lack protection from development
and predator and habitat management (see Table 1, below).
Table 1--Status and Characteristics of Core Wetlands Identified for Recovery of the Hawaiian Stilt
Wetland name/location Island (acres) Core or supporting Protected \1\ Managed Responsibility \2\
Kaloko-Honokohau, National Historic Hawaii.................... 22 (55) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. NPS.
Loko Waka Ponds..................... Hawaii.................... 10 (24.5) Core...................... ............... ...................................... Private.
Hanalei NWR......................... Kauai..................... 371 (917) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. USFWS.
Huleia NWR.......................... Kauai..................... 98 (241) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. USFWS.
Lumahai Valley Wetlands............. Kauai..................... 51 (125) Core...................... ............... ...................................... Private.
Mana Plains Forest Reserve (formerly Kauai..................... 14 (35) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. DOFAW.
Kawaiele Wild Bird Sanctuary).
Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary...... Maui...................... 59 (145) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. DOFAW.
Kealia Pond NWR..................... Maui...................... 280 (692) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. USFWS.
Kakahaia NWR........................ Molokai................... 18 (45) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. USFWS.
Ohiapilo Pond Bird Sanctuary........ Molokai................... 10 (25) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. County.
Playa Lakes (wetland complex)....... Niihau.................... 769 (1,900) Core...................... ............... ...................................... Private.
Hamakua Marsh Waterbird Sanctuary... Oahu...................... 35.6 (88) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. DOFAW/DU.
James Campbell NWR, Kii and Punamano Oahu...................... 66 (164) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. USFWS.
Kawainui Marsh...................... Oahu...................... 304 (750) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. DOFAW.
Marine Core Base Hawaii, Nuupia Oahu...................... 196 (483) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. MCBH.
Pearl Harbor NWR, Honouliuli and Oahu...................... 25 (61) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. USFWS.
Pouhala Marsh Waterbird Sanctuary... Oahu...................... 28 (78) Core...................... X predators and habitat................. DOFAW.
\1\ Protected refers to wetland areas that are secure from development.
\2\ Responsibility: DOFAW = Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife; DU = Ducks Unlimited; MCBH = Marine Corps Base Hawaii; NPS = National Park Service; USFWS = U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service; USN = U.S. Navy; County = County Government; State = State Government entity; Private = private landowner(s).
Although we conclude that this criterion has not been completely
met, we have made substantial progress toward meeting it, and the
ongoing management on core wetlands has contributed toward the
stabilization of the Hawaiian stilt population and helped to further
the recovery of the subspecies.
Criterion 2 for Downlisting
Criterion 2 states that at least 50 percent of the supporting
wetlands on the islands of Kauai, Oahu, Maui-Molokai-Lanai, and Hawaii
are protected and managed in accordance with the management practices
outlined in the recovery plan. The plan states that protection and
management of these wetlands is required to recover Hawaii's
waterbirds, but there is more flexibility with regard to which sites
must be managed, as it is possible that other sites may fulfill the
same needs as those identified.
The recovery plan identified 34 sites as supporting wetlands
throughout the State; of these, 15 are protected, 11 have predator or
habitat management or both, but only 7 of the 34 supporting wetlands
are in protective status and have some form of management (Table 2).
Therefore, we conclude that this criterion has been partially met.
Table 2--Supporting Wetlands and Characteristics Identified for Recovery of the Hawaiian Stilt
Wetland name/location Island (acres) Core or supporting Protected \1\ Managed Responsibility \2\
Kealakehe (Kona) Sewage Treatment Hawaii.................... 12 (30) Supporting................ ............... predators............................. County.
Keanae Pond (Keaau/Shipman)......... Hawaii.................... 2.9 (7.2) Supporting................ X ...................................... Private.
Keanakolu Road Stock Ponds (1-5) Hawaii.................... 18+ (45+) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... Private/State.
(Part of Kohala-Mauna Kea Ponds and
Opaeula Pond........................ Hawaii.................... 3 (7.5) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... Private.
Waiakea Pond........................ Hawaii.................... 16 (39.5) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... State/County.
Waimanu Valley...................... Hawaii.................... (*) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... County.
Waipio Valley....................... Hawaii.................... (**) Supporting................ X ...................................... County.
Hanalei Trader Taro Fields (Hanalei Kauai..................... 40.4 (100) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... Private/State.
River and Taro fields that are not
part of Hanalei NWR).
Hanapepe Salt Ponds................. Kauai..................... 20 (50) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... Private/DOFAW.
Mana Base Pond and Wetlands (Part of Kauai..................... 81 (200) Supporting................ X predators and habitat................. Private/State.
Opaekaa Marsh....................... Kauai..................... 20 (50) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... Private/DOFAW.
Smith's Tropical Paradise........... Kauai..................... 1.9 (4.7) Supporting................ X ...................................... Private/State.
Wailua River Bottoms................ Kauai..................... 20 (50) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... Private/State.
Waimea River System................. Kauai..................... 64 (158) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... Private/State.
Wainiha Valley River and Taro Fields Kauai..................... 44 (109) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... Private/County.
Waita Reservoir..................... Kauai..................... 151 (373) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... Private.
Lanai Sewage Treatment Ponds........ Lanai..................... 3 (7.4) Supporting................ ............... predators............................. Private/County.
Keanae Point........................ Maui...................... 1.5 (3.7) Supporting................ X ...................................... State.
Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Maui...................... 101 (250) Supporting................ X predators and habitat................. Private.
Kaunakakai Wastewater Reclamation Molokai................... 1.5 (3.7) Supporting................ X predators............................. County.
Kualapu[revaps]u Reservoir.......... Molokai................... 30 (74) Supporting................ X ...................................... State.
Paialoa Fish Ponds.................. Molokai................... 2 (5) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... Private.
Haleiwa Lotus and Taro Fields....... Oahu...................... 4.2 (10.6) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... Private/County.
Haleiwa Waialua Lotus Fields........ Oahu...................... 30 (75) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... Private.
Heeia Marsh......................... Oahu...................... 162 (400) Supporting................ X predators and habitat................. DOFAW.
Kaelepulu Mitigation Pond (Enchanted Oahu...................... 2.2 (5.6) Supporting................ X predators and habitat................. Private.
Kahuku Prawn Farm (Includes Amoriant Oahu...................... 41 (100) Supporting................ ............... ...................................... Private.
and Kahuku Aquaculture Farms).
Laie Wetlands....................... Oahu...................... 81 (200) Supporting................ X ...................................... Private.
Lualualei RTF, Niulii Ponds......... Oahu...................... 16 (40) Supporting................ X predators and habitat................. USN/USFWS.
Paiko Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary..... Oahu...................... 13 (33) Supporting................ X predators and habitat................. DOFAW.
Punahoolapa Marsh................... Oahu...................... 41 (100) Supporting................ X ...................................... Private.
Turtle Bay, Kuilima Wastewater Oahu...................... 5 (12.4) Supporting................ X ...................................... Private.
Ukoa Marsh.......................... Oahu...................... 122 (300) Supporting................ ............... predators and habitat................. Private.
Waihee Marsh........................ Oahu...................... 10 (25) Supporting................ ............... predators and habitat................. Private.
\1\ Protected refers to wetland areas that are secure from development.
\2\ Responsibility: HDOFAW = Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife; DU = Ducks Unlimited; MCBH = Marine Corps Base Hawaii; NPS = National Park Service; USFWS = U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service; USN = U.S. Navy; County = County Government; State = State Government entity; Private = Private Landowner(s).
* Large area of intermixed wetland, upland, and agricultural lands where specific habitat areal extent cannot be determined.
** Large area of intermixed wetlands and agricultural lands where specific habitat areal extent cannot be determined.
Criterion 3 for Downlisting
Criterion 3 states that a PVA should be conducted to update the
findings of Reed et al. (1998a, entire), and the population size
necessary for long-term viability of the subspecies should be
reassessed; and (2) the Statewide surveyed number of Hawaiian stilts
show a stable or increasing trend and has not declined below 2,000
birds (or an alternative target based on the updated PVA) for at least
5 consecutive years. Researchers have produced two PVAs for the
subspecies to support and inform the creation of recovery criteria and
recovery decisions for the subspecies (Reed et al. 1998a, entire; Reed
and van Reese 2019, entire). The most recent analysis in 2019,
completed with data collected since 1998, incorporated additional peer-
reviewed data on adult survival rates and variances in adult or
juvenile survival rates (Reed et al. 2014, entire); these additional
data were not available at the time of the initial modelling effort.
The 2019 effort also included data on individual movement patterns for
Hawaiian stilt (Reed et al. 1998b, entire). The authors of the 2019 PVA
stressed that the results are considered preliminary; that said, we
find that the results inform the best available information regarding
the viability of Hawaiian stilt.
Modeling from the 2019 PVA indicates that the Hawaiian stilt's
population growth is affected by density-dependent population dynamics
on managed wetlands beginning at approximately 1,000 birds. When
population densities are high, the aggressive territorial behavior of
adult stilts can lead to violent and occasionally fatal attacks on
conspecific chicks and adults, sometimes with extensive chick
fatalities as well as the potential for large numbers of nest failures
or abandonment. Local adult density has a strong negative correlation
with nest success (proportion of nests hatching at least one chick) at
Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) on Maui, where few
alternative breeding habitats are available, but no such effect at a
refinery pond on Oahu, where many nearby alternative wetlands are
available. Therefore, optimizing the distribution of birds during
breeding across the landscape (as opposed to concentrating breeding
populations on one/few sites) to mitigate the effects of density
dependence will benefit the conservation of the subspecies.
Additionally, because this density-dependence is closely associated
with available managed habitat, increased management (i.e., predator
control, water-level, and nonnative plant removal) across the range of
the species, in both core and supporting wetlands, will create more
suitable breeding habitat and thus increase the carrying capacity.
Adequate representation across multiple sites on multiple islands--as
illustrative of the approach of managed core and supporting wetlands
developed by the recovery team--offers the most effective pathway to
recovery of this conservation-reliant subspecies.
The PVA suggests that, under the current management efforts on core
and supporting wetlands the Statewide carrying capacity of Hawaiian
stilts is below 2,000 individuals. This means that the Hawaiian stilt
has reached its equilibrium population size (i.e., the population size
the landscape can currently support). Data used in the PVA was
collected from sites that are both protected and managed, as well as
data from sites that are protected but do
not have management. The vital rates (reproduction and mortality) used
in this PVA come from birds almost exclusively from managed sites as
there are few to no birds able to successfully breed elsewhere due to
the myriad threats present at non-managed sites. If the management
practices continue and the environmental conditions of the managed
sites are stable over the next 80 years, the rangewide population has
no chance of extinction within the 80-year modelling period. This
analysis demonstrates that under the current management practices the
rangewide population is stable within the limited available managed
sites and will continue to be stable as long as these management
practices and environmental conditions continue. The three key factors
that influence the probability of extinction, in order of importance,
are adult mortality, juvenile mortality, and nest failure rate. The PVA
predicted a sharp rise in the probability of extinction when adult
mortality rates exceeded approximately 24 percent; at approximately 34
percent, the probability of extinction for the stilt approached 80
percent (Reed and van Reese 2019, pp. 24, 30).
The PVA also found that the Hawaiian stilt's viability is sensitive
to changes in both annual juvenile mortality rates and nest failure
rates. The PVA model indicated that the probability of extinction
begins to increase sharply when annual juvenile mortality begins to
exceed 40 percent, with almost certain extinction at 79 percent annual
juvenile mortality (Reed and van Rees 2019; p. 31). Nest failure rates
also influence changes in the model's outcomes on probability of
extinction within 80 years (i.e., the likelihood the species will not
persist in 80 years). Nest failure rate would need to double, from
approximately 19 percent to approximately 40 percent to reach a high
probability of extinction within 80 years, with almost certain
extinction if nest failure rates reaches 50 percent.
The PVA stresses that the successful reproduction and survival of
stilts occurs almost exclusively at protected and managed wetlands and
that birds at unmanaged wetlands tend to disappear, and consequently, a
loss (or reduction) of management would decrease the species
persistence likelihood (Reed and van Reese 2019, p. 36). This insight
means in the absence (or reduction) of management at the currently
managed sites, the species probability of extinction would
substantially increase, and therefore, the species viability would
substantially decrease. Further, adult mortality, juvenile mortality,
and nest success are not independent factors. For example, if there are
fewer adults there are fewer nests, so any reduction in management or
habitat quality is likely to impact all life stages of the Hawaiian
Another potential limitation of the PVA is that changes in the
environmental conditions of the protected and managed sites attributed
to sea-level rise or other factors was not included as a variable in
any of the models included in this PVA. Sea-level rise in particular is
already impacting some wetlands in Hawaii (see Summary of Biological
Status and Threats, below) (Kane et al. 2015, p. 353; Htun et al. 2016,
pp. 50-51; van Reese and Reed 2018, pp. 2-3; van Reese and Reed 2019,
p. 4; van Reese 2020, pers. comm.). Over the next several decades, sea-
level rise could inundate enough core wetlands (e.g., Kanaha and Kealia
on Maui, and almost all wetlands on Molokai) across the islands and
result in changes to the species' persistence estimates in the PVA due
to changes or loss of available habitat and subsequent increases in
mortalities of adults, eggs, or young (Kane et al. 2015, p. 353; Htun
et al. 2016, pp. 50-51; van Reese and Reed 2018, pp. 2-3; Reed and van
Rees 2019, p. 4; Harmon 2020, in litt.; van Reese 2020, pers. comm.).
The insights from the PVA justify the need for long term
conservation actions such as managing habitat conditions and
controlling predation. The robustness of the populations on core
managed wetlands, as well as the effectiveness of management efforts
focusing on producing conditions that result in the successful
protection of nests, chicks, and adults, are well established. For
example, although the Service's NWR units contain only 15 percent of
the total coastal plan wetland acreage in the State, they supported
between 37 and 47 percent of the total Hawaiian stilt Statewide
population using data from 1986 through 2007 (Underwood et al. 2013, p.
6). Effective and sustained habitat and predator management produces
conditions that result in the successful protection of nests, chicks,
and adults, thereby significantly mitigating risk to the subspecies and
improving resiliency into the foreseeable future. Long-term commitment
towards conservation management actions are essential to continued
progress towards recovery. Furthermore, additional and more expansive
management on core and supporting wetland sites will also benefit the
status of the subspecies into the foreseeable future.
Regarding population trends for Hawaiian stilt, winter and summer
surveys for the subspecies show a fluctuating population, which
generally increased from 1986 to 2004 and since then has been roughly
stable at 1,500 to 2,000 individuals (see Range, Abundance, and
Population Trends). While the number of Hawaiian stilts counted during
the surveys has only occasionally exceeded 2,000 individuals during
winter or summer counts over the last 10 years, the population has
remained relatively stable over the past 16 years.
We conclude that this criterion has not fully been met because
although a new preliminary PVA has been produced, the Service has not
yet reassessed the subspecies population size necessary for long-term
viability. The Service will conduct this reassessment once the PVA has
undergone peer review and is published in the scientific literature.
Further, winter and summer surveys for the Hawaiian stilt show a
fluctuating population with a stable to increasing trend, but the total
population has not consistently been near 2,000 birds for 5 consecutive
years (see Range, Abundance, and Population Trends).
Criterion 4 for Downlisting
Criterion 4 states that there should be multiple self-sustaining
breeding populations, including multiple breeding populations on at
least the following: The island group of Kauai and Niihau, the island
of Oahu, the island group of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai, and the island
of Hawaii. Because the Hawaiian stilt exists in one intermixed
population, we refer to breeding populations solely to distinguish
groups of Hawaiian stilts that breed at a specific wetland on a
specific island at any given time. They may or may not be the same
stilts over time.
The recovery plan defines a self-sustaining breeding population as
a population that is large enough to make extirpation from stochastic
forces unlikely, and that is able to remain stable or grow with little
human intervention except for predator control and vegetation
management (USFWS 2011, p. 121). The recovery strategy further
strengthens this concept by incorporating the need to satisfy two
widely recognized and scientifically accepted goals for promoting
viable self-sustaining breeding populations: (1) By increasing the
population size and distribution across the islands, a single or series
of catastrophic events will not result in the extinction of the
subspecies; and (2) increasing the population size throughout its range
to a level where the threats of genetic,
demographic (population dynamics), and normal environmental
uncertainties are diminished (USFWS 2011, p. 112). Furthermore, for
these population and distribution goals to ensure the long-term
viability of the subspecies, they will require the successful control
or elimination of the identified threats.
Present distribution of the Hawaiian stilt encompasses all islands
where historically known (Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, and
Hawaii), as well as the island of Lanai due to the expansion in range
that occurred in the mid-1980s from the development of the Lanai
wastewater treatment facility. As previously summarized, since 1986,
census data indicate a Statewide population that is relatively stable
or slightly increasing (Service 2011, pp. 48-49; Service 2020, pp. 5,
18; van Rees et al. 2020, p. 3; DOFAW 2020). Additionally, the
implementation of adaptive management predator control practices over
the last decade at multiple core wetland sites has demonstrated that
the response of the subspecies to predator control is positive, with
higher fledgling success rates and overall improvements in population
densities of Hawaiian stilts than in unmanaged sites (Underwood et al.
2014, p. 35; Price 2020, p. 10). Current management of threats at most
core wetlands and some supporting wetland sites (Tables 1 and 2) has
contributed toward the stabilization of the population and likely also
plays an important role in creating a Hawaiian stilt population that is
at or near carrying capacity (Reed and van Rees 2019, entire; van Rees
et al. 2020, entire). As noted above, carrying capacity in this case is
really more an equilibrium population, which is the population size the
habitat can support under current conditions. If additional management
was implemented at more core and supporting wetlands then the carrying
capacity or equilibrium population size would increase. The expansion
of effective predator and vegetation control methods (e.g., mammalian
exclusion fencing, trapping methods, and vegetation control) into more
core and supporting wetlands may increase the carrying capacity or
equilibrium population size for the subspecies and further improve the
status of the species into the foreseeable future. Additionally,
implementation of the three essential management actions (predator,
vegetation, and water level control) at the same time, at the same
location, on a more regular basis, at wetlands that currently receive
management and expanding such practices to those that do not, will
further benefit the species. Although it is generally accepted by
wetland managers in Hawaii that all three management actions in
concerted effort are required restore the functionality of wetlands to
meet the life-history requirements of waterbirds, currently, all three
of these essential management actions do not necessarily happen at the
same time on managed wetlands (Underwood et al. 2013, p. 2). Sustained
management over time at many core and some supporting wetlands has
advanced the recovery of the Hawaiian stilt by securing essential
breeding habitat enabling the subspecies to increase its population
size and distribution.
The wide distribution of the Hawaiian stilt population, spread out
across the multiple islands, provides the subspecies with the
resiliency and redundancy necessary to withstand a stochastic (e.g.,
single wetland) or catastrophic (e.g., islandwide) event, respectively.
However, within-island distribution can be quite limited. For example,
the number of birds on the island of Hawaii are still relatively low
(200 to 250 at any given time on the island) and the birds have been
highly dependent on a local wastewater treatment facility (Kealakehe)
for breeding (National Park Service (NPS) 2020, pers. comm.).
Biologists at Kaloko-Honokohau National Park (NP) have more recently
been creating mudflats and more suitable habitat for Hawaiian stilts
which has increased nesting attempts (eight to 10 pairs of birds on
average) at the park; however, there is low nest success and very few
fledglings (NPS 2020, pers. comm.). The birds tend to increase in
number outside of the breeding season, but are primarily just foraging
(NPS 2020, pers. comm.). Similarly, the occurrence of birds on Lanai
demonstrates an expansion in range, but they are utilizing the
artificial habitat of a wastewater treatment facility and there are
only approximately 20 breeding pairs (Pulama Lanai 2020, pers. comm.).
Likewise, Hawaiian stilts on Molokai also largely depend on a
wastewater treatment facility, and most of Molokai's coastal wetlands
are only 1 ft (0.30 meter) above sea level and thus expected to be
reduced by sea-level rise resulting in a reduction of both nesting and
foraging areas on the island (Jenkins 2016, in litt.; Dibben-Young
2017, in litt.). Further, recent analyses of Hawaiian stilt numbers at
several NWR wetlands show a slight decline in Hawaiian stilts in recent
years (Rounds 2020, pers. comm.), which may lead to reduced
distribution. The population size does fluctuate, and the birds appear
to favor some wetlands over others during different years; however,
monitoring such trends is important to understanding the conservation
needs of the subspecies. Therefore, we conclude that this criterion is
Discussion/Summary of Downlisting Criteria Assessment
The downlisting criteria in the recovery plan (USFWS 2011, entire)
represented our best assessment, at the time the plan was prepared, of
the conditions that would result in a determination that the Hawaiian
stilt could be considered for reclassification under the Act as
threatened rather than endangered. While the downlisting criteria in
the recovery plan have not yet been completely met, we have made
substantial progress as: (1) Ongoing management is occurring at most
core wetlands (Criterion 1); (2) protection has been secured for about
40 percent of supporting wetlands, and about 33 percent of the
supporting wetlands are being managed (Criterion 2); (3) preliminary
results from a 2019 PVA have been obtained (Criterion 3) (Reed and van
Reese 2019, entire); and (4) census data indicate a rangewide stable to
increasing population with the resiliency and redundancy to withstand
both stochastic and catastrophic events (Criterion 4).
Recovery criteria for the Hawaiian stilt may need to be revisited
once the PVA is finalized. Using its assessment of population size
necessary for long-term viability of the subspecies, the PVA indicates
that under current vital rates at managed sites, current management
effort, and current condition and availability of habitat, the
Statewide carrying capacity may be below the conditional target of
2,000 individuals as listed in Recovery Criterion 3. The PVA notes that
it can be shown easily that a long-lived species in a setting with low
environmental stochasticity could steadily decline for 80 years but
still have a probability of persistence, particularly if the starting
population size is in the hundreds or thousands of individuals (van
Reese and Reed 2019, p. 35). Further, the PVA questions the target goal
of 2,000 individuals, citing that population sizes of long-lived
vertebrates tends to be greater (van Reese and Reed 2019, p. 38).
Increasing management (predator control, vegetation removal, and water-
level control) across the species' range at both core and supporting
wetlands is the most effective way to meet this recovery criterion. See
Current Voluntary and Regulatory Conservation Efforts, below, for a
summary of the partnerships that have contributed toward the
stabilization of the Hawaiian stilt population and efforts to manage
the subspecies throughout its range.
We provided two delisting criteria in our recovery plan. Criterion
1 states that of the supporting wetlands on the islands of Kauai, Oahu,
Maui-Molokai-Lanai, and Hawaii, at least 85 percent are protected and
managed in accordance with the management practices outlined in this
recovery plan. Criterion 2 states that the Statewide surveyed number of
Hawaiian stilts shows a stable or increasing trend and has not declined
below 2,000 birds (or an alternative target based on the updated
population viability analysis) for at least 10 consecutive years. The
information presented above for the downlisting criteria indicates that
the criteria for delisting have not yet been met; we provide a summary
of information relating to the delisting criteria below.
With regard to Criterion 1, the Service finds that progress towards
securing management actions on supporting wetlands has been made and is
showing success, but the criterion has not been fully realized to date.
For supporting wetland sites, producing long-term and sustained
Hawaiian stilt habitat management is complicated by the following
factors. First, many supporting wetlands are owned or managed by
multiple entities, which complicates coordination and intensity of
management effort. Additionally, the primary purpose of many of these
sites is not waterbird conservation (e.g., water reclamation
facilities, wastewater pond, taro production, and flood control), and,
therefore, management of conditions conducive to Hawaiian stilt
breeding is secondary. Finally, achieving long-term management efforts
on many of these sites is more uncertain than core and supporting sites
owned by the Federal and/or State conservation agencies; this is due to
a general lack of secured and dedicated funding sources and lack of
internal operational capacity. Partnerships at supporting wetland sites
have contributed to recovery progress for the Hawaiian stilt and other
waterbirds (see Current Voluntary and Regulatory Conservation Efforts)
and are contributing to recovery. Progress toward achieving this
criterion is currently ongoing but not yet at an acceptable level of
permanency or extent to achieve the greatest conservation outcomes to
meet this criterion.
With regard to delisting Criterion 2, winter and summer surveys for
Hawaiian stilt show a fluctuating population, which generally increased
from 1986 to 2004 and since then has been roughly stable at 1,500 to
2,000 individuals (see Range, Abundance, and Population Trends). The
number of Hawaiian stilts counted during the surveys has only
occasionally exceeded 2,000 individuals during winter or summer counts
over the last 10 years; thus, we will revisit this target once the PVA
has been peer reviewed and published.
Regulatory and Analytical Framework
Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing
regulations (50 CFR part 424) set forth the procedures for determining
whether a species is an ``endangered species'' or a ``threatened
species.'' The Act defines an endangered species as a species that is
``in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of
its range,'' and a threatened species as a species that is ``likely to
become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout
all or a significant portion of its range.'' The Act requires that we
determine whether any species is an ``endangered species'' or a
``threatened species'' because of any of the following factors:
(A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or
curtailment of its habitat or range;
(B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or
(C) Disease or predation;
(D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
(E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued
These factors represent broad categories of natural or human-caused
actions or conditions that could have an effect on a species' continued
existence. In evaluating these actions and conditions, we look for
those that may have a negative effect on individuals of the species, as
well as other actions or conditions that may ameliorate any negative
effects or may have positive effects. We consider these same five
factors in reclassifying a species from endangered to threatened (50
We use the term ``threat'' to refer in general to actions or
conditions that are known to or are reasonably likely to negatively
affect individuals of a species. The term ``threat'' includes actions
or conditions that have a direct impact on individuals (direct
impacts), as well as those that affect individuals through alteration
of their habitat or required resources (stressors). The term ``threat''
may encompass--either together or separately--the source of the action
or condition or the action or condition itself.
However, the mere identification of any threat(s) does not
necessarily mean that the species meets the statutory definition of an
``endangered species'' or a ``threatened species.'' In determining
whether a species meets either definition, we must evaluate all
identified threats by considering the species' expected response and
the effects of the threats--in light of those actions and conditions
that will ameliorate the threats--on an individual, population, and
species level. We evaluate each threat and its expected effects on the
species, then analyze the cumulative effect of all of the threats on
the species as a whole. We also consider the cumulative effect of the
threats in light of those actions and conditions that will have
positive effects on the species--such as any existing regulatory
mechanisms or conservation efforts. The Secretary determines whether
the species meets the definition of an ``endangered species'' or a
``threatened species'' only after conducting this cumulative analysis
and describing the expected effect on the species now and in the
The Act does not define the term ``foreseeable future,'' which
appears in the statutory definition of ``threatened species.'' Our
implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.11(d) set forth a framework for
evaluating the foreseeable future on a case-by-case basis. The term
foreseeable future extends only so far into the future as we can
reasonably determine that both the future threats and the species'
responses to those threats are likely. In other words, the foreseeable
future is the period of time in which we can make reliable predictions.
``Reliable'' does not mean ``certain;'' it means sufficient to provide
a reasonable degree of confidence in the prediction. Thus, a prediction
is reliable if it is reasonable to depend on it when making decisions.
It is not always possible or necessary to define foreseeable future
as a particular number of years. Analysis of the foreseeable future
uses the best scientific and commercial data available and should
consider the timeframes applicable to the relevant threats and to the
species' likely responses to those threats in view of its life-history
characteristics. Data that are typically relevant to assessing the
species' biological response include species-specific factors such as
lifespan, reproductive rates or productivity, certain behaviors, and
other demographic factors.
In addition to the threat analysis, to assess the Hawaiian stilt's
viability, we used the three conservation biology principles of
resiliency, redundancy, and representation (Shaffer and Stein 2000, pp.
306-310). Briefly, resiliency supports the ability of the subspecies to
withstand environmental and demographic stochasticity (for example, wet
or dry, warm or cold years), redundancy supports the ability of the
subspecies to withstand catastrophic events (for example, droughts,
large pollution events), and representation supports the ability of the
species to adapt over time to long-term changes in the environment (for
example, climate changes). In general, the more resilient and redundant
a subspecies is and the more representation it has, the more likely it
is to sustain populations over time, even under changing environmental
conditions. Using these principles, we identified the subspecies'
ecological requirements for survival and reproduction at the
individual, population, and (sub)species levels, and described the
beneficial and risk factors influencing the subspecies' viability.
Our assessment of viability is categorized into three sequential
stages. During the first stage, we evaluated the subspecies' life-
history needs. The next stage involved an assessment of the historical
and current condition of the subspecies' demographics and habitat
characteristics, including an explanation of how the subspecies arrived
at its current condition. The recent PVA provided a synthesis of this
information. The third and final stage involved making predictions
about the subspecies' responses to positive and negative environmental
and anthropogenic influences. Throughout all of these stages, we used
the best available information to characterize viability as the ability
of a subspecies to sustain populations in the wild over time.
Summary of Biological Status and Threats
In this section, we review the biological conditions of the
subspecies and its resources, and the threats that influence the
subspecies' current and future condition, in order to assess the
subspecies' overall viability and the risks to that viability.
The sources cited in this proposed rule represent the best
scientific and commercial data available concerning the current status
of the subspecies, including the past, present, and future threats. We
used this information to evaluate the current and future resiliency,
redundancy, representation, and viability of the Hawaiian stilt. (See
Regulatory and Analytical Framework.) The effects of conservation
actions were also assessed as part of the current condition of the
subspecies. We note that overutilization for commercial, recreational,
scientific, or educational purposes (Factor B) was not identified as a
threat at the time of listing, and we have no additional information to
suggest it is currently, or will become, a threat in the foreseeable
future; hunting of the subspecies has been prohibited since the 1940s.
Furthermore, as per our policy, in this proposed rule we consider
regulatory mechanisms (Factor D) with respect to how both regulatory
and volunteer conservation measures might reduce or ameliorate threats
to the species, rather than in the context of a potential stand-alone
threat. Threats to the subspecies are reduced by voluntary and
regulatory actions initiated by the Service, DOFAW, and voluntary
actions by a large network of organizations interested in wetland and
waterbird conservation rangewide. A summary of these efforts is found
in Current Voluntary and Regulatory Conservation Efforts.
The primary threats to Hawaiian stilts are habitat loss and
degradation (due to urban development, ground and surface water
alterations that affect core and supporting wetlands, nonnative plants,
and foreseeable changes in habitat quality and quantity due to sea
level rise (such as groundwater flooding and inundation and coastal
flooding and inundation)) (Factor A); nonnative predators (Factor C);
avian disease (Factor C); environmental contaminants (Factor E); and
foreseeable tropical cyclone intensity and frequency resulting from
climate change (Factor E).
These threats should be considered in the context of a stable and
resilient subspecies indicated from surveys over the past several
decades, and peer-reviewed studies including past (Reed et al. 1998,
entire) and most recent (Reed and van Rees 2019, entire) PVA analyses,
and radio telemetry studies (Kawasaki et al. 2020, p. 431). Below we
discuss these threats and their relationship to Hawaiian stilt current
and future condition.
Habitat Loss and Degradation Due to Urban Development
Some of the largest core wetlands have been lost over the past
century. On Oahu, Waikiki, Pearl Harbor, Kaelepulu (now Enchanted
Lake), and Salt Lake were lost to development, each with only remnants
left behind, some of which, like Waikiki, are no longer able to support
the Hawaiian stilt. A small preserve (Kaelepulu Wetland Preserve, 1.2
ha (3 ac)) was set aside in 1955, a remnant of the once expansive
Kaelepulu wetland. Pearl Harbor wetlands have also been greatly
degraded or diminished by means of filling, urban development,
nonnative plant overgrowth, and water pollution. The Mana Plains on
Kauai, once the largest wetland in Hawaii at over 1,600 ac (650 ha)
(circa 1910) was reduced to only 200 ac (80 ha) by 2006, primarily due
to water diversions for sugar cane (Munro 1944, p. 59; Shallenberger
1977, p. 218; Erickson and Puttock 2006, p. 40). Within these last 200
ac (80 ha), 35 ac (14 ha) are designated as the Mana Plain Forest
Reserve (formerly the Kawaiele Waterbird Sanctuary). Although
magnitudes smaller in size, it is still considered a core wetland
(USFWS 2011, pp. 207, 214). The greater Mana Plain area is also an
important supporting wetland habitat for the Hawaiian stilt due to
remaining scattered ephemeral (temporary) wetlands (Nadig 2017, pers.
comm.). The adjacent Navy wastewater treatment facility at the Pacific
Missile Range Facility also serves to support the subspecies as a
supporting (albeit human-made) wetland. Most wetland losses in Hawaii
have been human induced, ranging from water diversions, discharging
fill, building dams, channelizing, pumping, grubbing (the removal of
trees, shrubs, stumps, and rubbish from a site), grading, deep ripping,
and other agricultural or military land use practices (Erickson and
Puttock 2006, p. 40).
Many of Hawaii's wetlands, including core and supporting wetlands
occupied by Hawaiian stilts, occur in coastal areas that are highly
valued for development and are becoming increasingly urbanized.
Although the rate of permanent losses of coastal wetlands has
significantly been slowed due to wetland protection laws, suitable
Hawaiian stilt breeding wetland sites continue to be subject to
degradation effects of adjacent urbanization and other incompatible
land uses, water extraction, and diversion. This continuous
encroachment raises concerns regarding human disturbance, urban runoff
impacts on water quality, and an increased incidence of domestic cats
and dogs in wildlife areas (Stone 1989, pp. 129-130, 134; Wright et al.
2006, pp. 13-60). Further, ongoing urbanization could limit or prohibit
the inland movement of coastal wetlands as areas are inundated with
groundwater and marine water resulting from sea level rise because the
ground is impermeable (Clausen and Clausen 2014, p. 177).
Ground and Surface Water Alterations Resulting From Urban Development
Ground and surface water alterations, such as flood control and
channelization, often make wetland habitat less suitable or unusable
for Hawaiian stilts by altering both water depth and timing of water
level fluctuations. Nearly all surface-water features (e.g., streams,
lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, and estuaries) interact with ground water
(United States Geological Survey (USGS) 1998, p. III). As a result,
withdrawal of water from streams can deplete ground water. Similarly,
pumping of ground water can deplete water in streams, lakes, and
wetlands (USGS 1998, p. III). Hawaiian stilts are not always able to
adjust their breeding behavior to accommodate such modifications, which
results in decreased reproductive success and therefore decreased
resiliency. Alternatively, water released after prolonged diversion can
negatively impact habitat for Hawaiian stilts (Morin 1998, p. 27;
Underwood 2017, pers. comm.). For example, recent (2014) water disputes
on west Maui resulted in less upstream water diversion for agriculture,
and subsequently a more-steady stream flow of water into Kealia Pond
NWR. This steady water influx decreased the amount of stilt habitat
(i.e., mudflats and shallow water areas), raising water levels so high
the NWR had to breech water out into the ocean so the water did not get
too deep (Underwood 2017, pers. comm.). Prior to this surface water
alteration, Kealia Pond was a common breeding site for Hawaiian stilts
(sometimes supporting over 1,000 individuals) (Nishimoto 2006, p. 40;
Nishimoto 2014, p. 1; Underwood 2017, pers. comm.). The shift to
deeper, year-round water has resulted in reduction of Hawaiian stilt
numbers at Kealia Pond (Underwood 2017, pers. comm.). The natural cycle
of seasonal inundation and evaporation of fresh or brackish water
mudflats has been altered, resulting in a decrease in quality of
habitat. More recently, the NWR manager at Kealia has increased
management practices and is starting to see more stilts on the NWR
again, although in low numbers (USFWS waterbird hui 2020, pers. comm.).
The depletion of freshwater aquifers also causes saltwater
intrusion into coastal groundwater resulting in changes to salinity
levels in associated wetlands. Changes in salinity may alter the
composition of the vegetation and invertebrate communities, which
subsequently may affect food availability at such sites for Hawaiian
stilts (Chang 1990, pp. 65, 71, 73; Morin 1998, p. 27; Wirwa 2007, pp.
86, 91; Silbernagle 2008, pers. comm. cited in USFWS 2011, p. 80).
Further, invertebrate die-offs from salinity changes could trigger a
botulism outbreak (see Avian Disease, below) (Morin 1998, p. 27).
Records of salinity in Hawaii's wetlands range from 0 parts per
thousand (ppt) up to 200 ppt (Ueoka et al. 1979, p. 6; Coleman 1981,
pp. 12, 15, 18; Wirwa 2007, p. 91; Nadig 2017, pers. comm.).
Alterations in ground and or surface water could result in complete
habitat loss (e.g., Waikiki), as mentioned above under Habitat Loss and
Modification due to Urban Development.
Habitat Loss and Degradation by Nonnative Plants
Hawaii experiences a year-round growing season; therefore,
management of invasive wetland plants, and sometimes native plants,
must be constant (Underwood et al. 2013, p. 1; Nadig 2017, pers. comm.)
to provide good habitat for the Hawaiian stilt. Invasive species such
as California grass, pickleweed, water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes),
Indian fleabane (Pluchea indica), and mangrove (Rhizophora mangle)
present serious problems in most Hawaiian wetlands by outcompeting
native species and eliminating open water, mudflats, and shallow water
areas (Shallenberger 1977, pp. 154, 184, 238; Griffin 1989, p. 1171;
Henry 2006, p. 26). At least one native plant, aeae (Bacopa monnieri)
may also need management as it too has the potential to smother wetland
habitat (Nadig 2017, pers. comm.). The alteration of wetland plant
communities due to extensive, blanketing overgrowth of invasive plants
can greatly reduce the usefulness of wetland areas for native
waterbirds, including the Hawaiian stilt (Shallenberger 1977, pp. 154,
184, 238; Griffin 1989, p. 1171; Morin 1994, p. 69; Morin 1998, p. 21;
Pacific Rim Conservation 2012, p. 6; Jenkins 2016, in litt.). The
establishment of nonnative red mangrove may facilitate the use of
wetlands by introduced cattle egrets and the indigenous black-crowned
night-heron or aukuu (Nycticorax nycticorax), thereby increasing the
threat of predation on Hawaiian stilts (Rauzon and Drigot 2002, p.
240). Efforts to remove such invasive species are expensive and require
ongoing vegetation management as well as periodic sweeps for removing
seedlings. Nonnative plant control is a key problem facing wetland
managers in the State of Hawaii (USFWS 2011, p. 80).
Sea Level Rise
Global mean sea level (GMSL) is rising and is expected to continue
to rise for centuries due to thermal expansion, even if all Nations
ceased production of greenhouse gasses today (Meehl et al. 2012, p.
576; Golledge et al. 2015, pp. 421, 424; DeConto and Pollard 2016, p.
591). This is because of the warming that has already occurred.
Additionally, GMLS may rise even more due to warming that is yet to
occur from the still uncertain level of future greenhouse gas emissions
(National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 2017, p. 1). The
level of projected rise in GMSL is different depending on the
corresponding Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) emissions
scenario (RCP 2.6, 4.5, 6, or 8.5) (van Vuuren et al. 2011, p. 5;
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2014, p. 8). The NOAA, along
with other Federal and academic science institutions, laid out six
risk-based GMSL scenarios describing potential future conditions, with
lower and upper bounds of GMSL rise between 0.2 and 0.6 m (0.7 and 1.9
ft) through 2040 (NOAA 2017, pp. vi-vii, 1-55 and Appendices A-D). This
is highly relevant to Hawaiian stilt conservation because, even at the
lowest current estimate, substantial habitat may be lost or degraded.
Sea level rise is not expected to be uniform throughout the world,
due to factors including, but not limited to: (1) Variations in
oceanographic factors such as circulation patterns; (2) changes in
Earth's gravitational field and rotation, and the flexure of the crust
and upper mantle, due to melting of land-based ice; and (3) vertical
land movement due to glacial isostatic adjustments, sedimentation
compaction, groundwater and fossil fuel withdrawals, and other non-
climactic factors (Spada et al. 2013, p. 484; NOAA 2017, pp. vi-vii, 9,
19). The Hawaiian Islands are expected to receive higher increases in
sea level rise than the GMSL rise (Spada et al. 2013, p. 484; Polhemus
2015, p. 7; NOAA 2017, p. 9). Further, sea level rise in Hawaii will
not be uniform across the islands due, in part, to vertical land motion
resulting from the actively growing Hawaii Island (Kane 2014, p. 3 and
references therein; Polhemus 2015, p. 3). Both marine inundation and
groundwater inundation will contribute to wetland habitat loss and
modification, but as sea level rise increases beyond 2.4 ft (0.74 m),
marine inundation will be the dominant source of inundation (Polhemus
2015, p. 25). Lastly, sea level rise is not expected to be a slow,
gradual, and linear
phenomenon; it is anticipated to accelerate and at times be quite rapid
(Polhemus 2015, pp. 6-7). Sea level rise is of particular concern for
conservation of the Hawaiian stilt because most of Hawaii's wetlands
are located just inland of a narrow coastal strand and are dependent
upon natural or pumped groundwater sources to maintain pond water
levels (Kane 2014, p. 7 and references therein).
Our assessment of sea level rise and its effects on Hawaiian stilt
wetland habitat has been limited to the foreseeable future. We have
assessed the foreseeable future as through the year 2040, based that
many climate models diverge at year 2040, and the medium-term forecast
of 0.98 ft (0.3 m) sea level rise effects on Hawaiian coastal wetlands
(Kane and Fletcher 2013, entire). Availability of climate change models
for this timeframe and localized area is limited.
By 2040, marine flooding and inundation resulting from sea level
rise is anticipated to result in coastal flooding in Hawaii (Kane and
Fletcher 2013, pp. 1-33, and Appendix). Marine flooding and inundation
is expected to occur through a combination of storm surge (rising sea
level associated with a storm), marine overwash (waves overtopping sand
dunes) and tidal waves (periodic tidal fluctuations caused by
gravitational pull), intensified by sea level rise and increases in
tropical storm frequency and intensity (see Tropical Cyclone Intensity
and Frequency) (Fletcher et al. 1995, p. 193). This wave action can
change coastal geomorphology, increasing the flooding risks of the
coastal floodplain (Theuerkauf et al. 2014, p. 5146) and low-island
overwash (Hoeke et al. 2013, p. 137). In coastal wetlands with no
significant barrier from the ocean, marine inundation is expected to
have a greater effect on Hawaiian stilt habitat than groundwater
inundation by approximately 2040 (Kane and Fletcher 2013, p. 16;
Jenkins 2016, in litt.).
Marine overwash poses a substantial threat to Hawaiian stilt
reproduction. Flooding from marine overwash during the breeding season
(February thru July) will destroy nests with eggs (Coleman 1981, p.
57), although Hawaiian stilts have been observed re-nesting if nest
failure occurs early in the breeding season (Coleman 1981, p. 59;
Browning 2020, in litt.). If re-nesting did not occur over many years
at wetlands on Kauai, Oahu, and Maui, the resilience and redundancy of
this subspecies (Reed et al. 2007, p. 616) would decrease due to lack
of natural recruitment.
Marine flooding and inundation also will cause an increase in
salinity levels, changing the composition of vegetation in coastal
wetlands (Kane et al. 2014, p. 1685). This could impact shallow
foraging and nesting mudflat areas by allowing invasive, salt-tolerant,
emergent vegetation to become established which could in turn reduce
nesting habitat for the Hawaiian stilt. However, Hawaiian stilts
currently occupy core wetlands that are hypersaline (e.g., the Waiawa
unit of Pearl Harbor NWR). Usually there is a freshwater source
somewhere near these highly saline wetlands in Hawaii as there are many
springs scattered across the islands, even occurring in ocean tidal
Some of the most vulnerable wetlands in Hawaii are on the south
shore of Molokai. Palaau and Kahanui wetlands--both supporting
wetlands--may be completely inundated at 1 ft (0.3 m) and 2 to 3 ft
(0.6 to 0.9 cm), respectively, and Ohiapilo may similarly be inundated
at 2 ft (0.6 m) (Jenkins 2016, in litt.). Even under some of the most
conservative sea level rise estimates, a large portion of Molokai's
wetlands may be obliterated. A critical elevation point is when sea
level rise impacts will rapidly accelerate after a particular increase
of sea level occurs. At Kanaha State Wildlife Sanctuary on Maui, the
critical elevation point is 0.7 ft (0.2 m) and it is predicted to be
exceeded by year 2028 [25 years] (Kane and Fletcher 2013,
p. 18). The critical elevation point at Kealia Pond NWR (Maui) and
James Campbell NWR (Oahu) is 2 ft (0.6 m) and is predicted to be
exceeded by year 2066 [16 years] (Kane and Fletcher 2013,
p. 18). As on Molokai, even the more conservative estimates of sea
level rise place these wetlands at risk.
Tropical Cyclone Intensity and Frequency
Tropical cyclone frequency and intensity are projected to change as
a result of increasing temperature and changing circulation associated
with climate change (Vecchi and Soden 2007, pp. 1068-1069, Figures 2
and 3; Emanuel et al. 2008, p. 360, Figure 8; Yu et al. 2010, p. 1371,
Figure 14). A projected shift in the path of the subtropical jet stream
northward, away from Hawaii, will increase the number of storms
reaching the Hawaiian Islands from an easterly direction similar to
Hurricane Iselle in 2014 (Murakami et al. 2013, p. 751). This shift may
result in extreme rainfall events and associated flooding impacts to
core and supporting wetland sites located on the northern and eastern
shores of the affected islands. Between 1950 and 1997, 22 hurricanes
passed near or over the Hawaiian Islands; five of these caused serious
damage to the islands, including stilt habitat (Businger 1998, in
litt.). Impacts from a tropical cyclone can degrade and destroy habitat
as well as cause direct mortality of eggs and chicks (e.g., flooding of
nests and separation of chicks from parents).
Groundwater Inundation and Flooding
As sea level rises, the water table will rise simultaneously,
eventually rising above the land surface, creating new wetlands and
expanding others (Rotzoll and Fletcher 2012, p. 477). This will
subsequently change surface drainage, saturate the soil, and inundate
land in lower lying areas (Rotzoll and Fletcher 2012, p. 447). The
rising groundwater table will change certain aspects of spatial
configuration and vegetative zonation in some wetlands, and the
freshwater resources will degrade in quality due to the underlying
saltwater intrusion (Polhemus 2015, p. 21 and references therein).
There are also several reports that note although ecogeopmorphic
(interactions between organisms and the development of landforms)
feedbacks will allow some coastal wetlands to adapt to the lower
estimates of sea level rise, they all predict that more rapid and
higher estimates of sea level rise will likely submerge many wetlands
by the year 2100 (Kirwan et al. 2010, pp. 1-5; Langley et al. 2009, p.
Effects of groundwater flooding may have already begun at Kealia
Pond NWR and wetlands with similar characteristics (Kane 2014, p. 13).
The net effect, or expected rate of change, on the narrow band of
habitat suitable for Hawaiian stilt has not been specifically analyzed
and remains unclear. More research needs to be conducted to better
understand how much wetland losses and gains we can anticipate in
Hawaii due to sea level rise, as well as the impacts on the Hawaiian
stilt and other Hawaiian waterbirds, and wetland ecosystems in general.
Some actively managed wetlands, such as NWR units in Hawaii, will have
some management flexibility to provide both foraging and breeding
habitat for Hawaiian stilts at least during the early signs of
groundwater inundation. However, as marine flooding and inundation
exacerbates this threat, NWR units may run out of land area to meet the
needs of the subspecies. Other core and supporting wetland managers may
not be able to manage for adaptation as readily due to lack of funding
or support, or they may too find there is no land left for which to
Although the upslope expansion or creation of new wetlands from
groundwater and marine flooding and inundation (ecogeomorphic feedback)
could help to counteract at least some habitat losses from sea level
rise, many of these sites would be outside of current landownership as
well as predator control programs on current core or supporting
wetlands. To take advantage of these changes, State and Federal
agencies would need to commit and potentially increase funding to
adjust predator control programs at newly created or expanded core and
supporting wetlands, and perhaps acquire new lands; historically,
predator control funding has not always been consistent (Nadig 2018,
pers. comm.). Additionally, urban development directly adjacent to
coastal wetlands, or surrounding wetlands as is the situation at Kanaha
Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary, will limit or prohibit such wetlands
from a natural landward migration or ecogeomorphic shift (Kane 2014, p.
Because Hawaiian stilts compete for brood territories and nesting
ground in mudflats and shallow water, reduction of this habitat may
have negative impacts on the population, specifically reduced
resiliency, redundancy, representation, and therefore reduced
viability. Hawaiian stilts that are forced to use nest sites and brood-
rearing habitat outside predator control areas are likely to suffer
higher mortality (Price 2020, p. 10).
Predation by nonnative animals is one of the greatest threats
influencing the overall viability of the Hawaiian stilt (USFWS 2011, p.
v; Underwood et al. 2013, pp. 1-2; Underwood et al. 2014, pp. 32-38;
Price 2020, p. 1; Harmon 2020, in litt.). Introduced predators have
negatively influenced the overall viability of the Hawaiian stilt since
the mid-1800s (Griffin et al. 1989, pp. 1165-1174). Birds in the
Hawaiian Islands evolved in the absence of mammalian predators and are
consequently highly vulnerable to these introduced animals. Predators
of Hawaiian stilts include both introduced and native animals,
including mongooses (Herpestes javanicus), black rats (Rattus rattus),
feral cats (Felis catus), feral dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), black-
crowned night herons or aukuu (Nycticorax nycticorax), cattle egrets
(Bubulcus ibis), Hawaiian short-eared owl or pueo (Asio flammeus
sandwichensis), barn owls (Tyto alba), common mynas (Acridotheres
tristis), and bullfrogs (Anas wyvilliana) (Coleman 1981, pp. 70-73;
Robinson et al. 1999, p. 13; Eijzenga 2004, in litt.; K. Viernes pers.
comm. 1994, in Service 2011, p. 58).
Mongooses were first introduced to the island of Hawaii in 1883,
and subsequently to Oahu, Maui, and Molokai. They do not seem to have
established on Kauai, although sightings continue to be reported
(Phillips and Lucey 2016, pp. 1-23). Mongoose have become a serious
threat to Hawaiian stilts where they occur, taking eggs, young birds,
and nesting adults. Feral cats became established in Hawaii shortly
after European contact and were common in Oahu forests as early as 1892
(Tomich 1986, pp. 101-102). Feral cats range from sea level to at least
2,900 m (9,500 ft) on Hawaii Island (Hu et al. 2001, p. 236) and 3,055
m (10,000 ft) on Maui (Hodges and Nagata 2001, pp. 308, 312). The
proliferation of feral cat feeding stations near parks and other areas
that support Hawaiian stilts contributes toward the predation. Cats
have been observed taking adult Hawaiian waterbirds (including Hawaiian
stilts) and are presumed to take chicks as well (Dibben-Young 2017, in
litt.). Rats are known to prey on eggs and young Hawaiian stilts
(Underwood et al. 2014, pp. 32, 37). Other introduced species, such as
the cattle egret, bullfrog, and barn owl, are known to prey on Hawaiian
waterbirds. The introduced bullfrog is considered a voracious predator
of all small animals (Berger 1981, p. 86; Viernes 1995 cited in Adams
and Pearl 2007, p. 680; Robinson et al. 1999, p. 13; Eijzenga 2004, in
litt.). Underwood and Letchworth (2016, pp. 380-383) hypothesize that
improving bullfrog trapping will result in the improved survival of
waterbird chicks. Cattle egrets play an unquantified role as a predator
of nestling birds. Nonnative cats, rats, mongooses, dogs, and, to a
lesser extent, pigs, barn owls, cattle egrets, predatory fish and
bullfrogs all directly depredate either eggs, young, or adult Hawaiian
waterbirds (Underwood et al. 2013, p. 1).
The effect of predation on reproductive success is a known point of
vulnerability for viability of Hawaiian stilt populations and if
unmanaged could result in rangewide population declines. Predator
control programs in wetlands result in higher fledgling success rates
and overall population densities of Hawaiian stilts (Underwood et al.
2014, p. 35). Without active predator control, survival is expected to
be lower, particularly in the hatch-year class (Reed et al. 2015, p.
183). Some predation of hatch-year individuals continues to occur even
where extensive predator control programs are in effect (Coleman 1981,
p. 89; Reed et. al. 2015, p. 183). Analysis of data collected over two
nesting seasons across Oahu revealed hatching success (number of nests
that produced at least one chick per number of total nests) averaged
between 40 and 60 percent across wetlands, with predation at 65 percent
of all nest failures (Harmon 2020, in litt.). All data used in this
analysis were collected in wetlands that actively trap and remove
introduced predators, thus predation is expected to be higher without
predator removal. Managed wetlands using mammal exclusion fences (e.g.,
Honouliuli Unit of Pearl Harbor NWR) result in a greater number of eggs
laid per nest and a greater number of eggs hatched per nest than
managed wetlands that rely solely on mammalian trapping methods (e.g.,
Waiawa Unit of Pearl Harbor NWR and most other managed wetlands in
Hawaii) (Price 2020, p. 7; Christensen 2020, in litt. in Harmon 2020,
in litt.). Notably, nearly as many nests were abandoned as were
depredated in this study. Cause of abandonment is often difficult to
determine as there are several potential causes: Presence or harassment
from predators, competition between Hawaiian stilts, poor egg
development, undetected flooding, and human disturbance (Price 2020, p.
Predator control programs continue to be implemented in most core
wetland areas (See Recovery Criteria and Table 1); the resulting level
of reproductive success, has been sufficient to support stable to
increasing population indices over several decades. Improvements in
predator control continue to be implemented (e.g., predator-proof
fencing at the Honouliuli Unit of Pearl Harbor NWR). New trapping
technologies are also being implemented (e.g., automatic self-resetting
traps such as Goodnature A-24 devices). Because this technology is less
labor-intensive to implement, effective trapping areas can be increased
so that predator populations can be reduced over broader areas. As
previously summarized above, ongoing management and predation control
programs need to continue into the foreseeable future. For core and
supporting wetlands under federal or state control, we expect these
efforts to continue so long as supporting budgets are funded at current
levels. This effort has currently resulted in a stable or slightly
increasing population to the point at which it is approaching
population equilibrium under current management practices (See Recovery
Criteria discussion above). Continuation of, and expansion of, these
predator control and habitat management actions
will further the stability (and expansion) of the conservation-reliant
Hawaiian stilt population and its ability to withstand stochastic
(i.e., resiliency) and catastrophic (i.e., redundancy) events, as well
as maintain its widespread distribution on multiple islands (i.e.,
representation) and therefore its long-term viability.
Avian botulism is the most prevalent disease affecting waterbirds
in Hawaii, including Hawaiian stilts, and has been documented at two
dozen or more wetlands (including many core and supporting wetlands)
across the State (Dibben-Young 2016, p. 4; USFWS 2016, in litt.). Some
wetlands have more recurrence than others (e.g., Kauai: Hanalei NWR;
Oahu: James Campbell NWR, Kaelepulu Pond, Kawainui Marsh; Maui: Kanaha
Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary, Kealia Pond NWR; Molokai: Ohiapilo Pond)
(Dibben-Young 2016, p. 4). Since December 2011, Hanalei NWR has
experienced year-round avian botulism type C and has reported deaths of
Hawaiian stilts from this disease (USFWS 2016, in litt.). Avian
botulism is caused by a toxin produced by the anaerobic bacteria
Clostridium botulinum type C in stagnant water. The disease may
reappear annually and can affect all native and migratory waterbirds,
causing paralysis evidenced by staggering and the eventual loss of use
of legs. Death is likely due to respiratory failure or drowning from
the inability to hold their head above water.
Botulism is an ongoing issue for mortality risk, and we have no
specific data or information suggesting the degree of threat will
change in the future. Procedures have been developed for response to
botulism outbreaks through Hawaii's State Wildlife Action Plan, in
coordination with the DOFAW, wildlife centers, and veterinarians.
Improvements in response to outbreaks may benefit in reducing mortality
rates, as quick carcass disposal is essential to contain the diseases'
spread. This threat remains persistent and rangewide.
Many wetlands in Hawaii are adjacent to urban development (Kane
2014, p. 29). This proximity results in potential for the Hawaiian
stilt to be exposed to contaminants from storm drains and roadside
ditches that empty into streams, wetlands, and the ocean (Stone 1989,
p. 132; Wright et al. 2006, pp. 13-60). Some wetlands used as flood
control basins, such as Kawai Nui marsh, are expected to accumulate
contaminants from urban runoff. Non-point source pollution from septic
wastewater, agricultural runoff, roads, and contaminated storm water
can overwhelm the filtering capacity of wetlands, including wetlands in
Hawaii, impacting downstream coastal waters (DeCarlo and Anthony 2002,
p. 490; Zhang and Zhang 2011, entire; DOFAW 2015, in litt.; Einoder et
al. 2018, p. 102; van Reese 2018, p. 38). Additionally, two featherless
chicks have been found at Marine Corp Base Hawaii, one each in the
2018-2019 and 2019-2020 nesting seasons, the latter of which is
undergoing a toxicology analysis (DOD 2017, entire; Fry 2020, pers.
comm.). Several core wetlands are on or adjacent to military
installations and airports which further increase the risk of
contaminants (Fry 2020, pers. comm.). Contaminants in wetlands can
enter the diet of waterbirds, resulting in accumulation of toxins
(Ratner 2000, entire; Einoder et al. 2018, p. 103). In Switzerland,
polychlorinated biphenyls have been detected in waterbirds at levels
within the range that could result in reproductive impairment
(Zimmerman et al. 1997, p. 1379). Due to ocean current patterns and
Hawaii's location in the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii receives an enormous
amount of plastic marine debris each year. This debris not only impacts
Hawaii's beaches, but also pollutes Hawaii's coastal wetlands. At this
time, we know of no contaminant surveys being conducted in Hawaii
wetlands or specific information about contaminant effects on the
Hawaiian stilt; however, because Hawaiian stilts eat fish and aquatic
invertebrates, they are particularly at risk from elevated
concentrations of contaminants that accumulate in streams around
Hawaii, many of which are tributaries to Hawaii's coastal wetlands
(Brasher and Wolff 2007, p. 284).
Cumulative Threats Analysis
The Hawaiian stilt is threatened by ongoing predation, combined
with loss or degradation of habitat resulting from urban development,
ground and surface water alterations associated with urban development,
nonnative plants, and flooding and inundation of habitat resulting from
sea level rise. Threats such as botulism and environmental contaminants
are also rangewide and persistent. Torrential rains associated with
increases in hurricane frequency and intensity will increase urban
runoff of oil, heavy metals, and other undesirable chemicals into
Hawaii's lowland coastal wetlands. Similarly, torrential rain will
increase sedimentation which, among other factors (increased
temperature, pH, and salinity), is linked to increased botulism
outbreak events (Rocke and Samual 1999, pp. 1250, 1255-1256). However,
Hawaiian stilts have demonstrated strong resilience and adaptability,
as long as active management of predators, vegetation, and water levels
give them a safe place with suitable habitat to meet their needs for
breeding, foraging, and sheltering. More wetlands are being fenced to
exclude predators and most core wetlands are managed to some extent to
meet the needs of Hawaiian stilts (see Recovery Criteria).
Management is the influencing factor that counters all of the above
influence factors, easing the burden of predation, habitat loss and
modification, and disease. Continuing the current level of habitat
management and predation control efforts has resulted in a largely
stable population to a point at which the subspecies may have reached
an equilibrium population size (the number of birds the existing
habitat can support) (See Recovery Criteria discussion above).
Expansion of management on additional acreage and at additional
locations should create enhanced stability (and expansion of) of the
Hawaiian stilt population rangewide. Further, expansion and
continuation of these essential actions will allow the subspecies to
withstand stochastic (i.e., resiliency) and catastrophic (i.e.,
redundancy) events, as well as maintain its widespread distribution on
multiple islands (i.e., representation) and therefore its long-term
Current Voluntary and Regulatory Conservation Efforts
The recovery of Hawaiian stilt requires strong partnerships among
Federal, State, local, and private groups. The State of Hawaii and the
Department of Defense have been important partners with the NWRs'
efforts to protect, manage, and conserve the significant wetland
habitats and to support Hawaiian stilt populations over the last 30
years. The U.S. Marine Corps Base--Hawaii has worked to maintain
Hawaiian stilt habitat on its properties and facilitated events that
promote Hawaiian stilt conservation and involve both the public and
military personnel. Their overall goal is to contribute to regional
recovery efforts of the Hawaiian stilt, with a view to building
regional partnerships and strengthening the Hawaiian stilt population
outside of the core habitat on the Marine Corps Base. The Navy's
Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai has committed to habitat
restoration and management actions in important nearby wetland habitat
in proximity to actions involving military readiness associated with
implementation of their Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans
and associated section 7 biological opinions. Several wastewater
treatment facilities across the islands conduct predator control to
protect nesting Hawaiian stilts and adults with chicks. Local and
county governments also contribute to conservation actions.
Additionally, several academic researchers continue to produce data
that help guide management actions and inform policy.
In addition to the protections afforded by the Endangered Species
Act, the Hawaiian stilt is protected under a variety of other laws,
including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The MBTA (16 U.S.C.
703-712, 50 CFR 10.13), is a domestic law that implements the U.S.
commitment to four international conventions (with Canada, Japan,
Mexico, and Russia) for the protection of shared migratory bird
The Hawaii Endangered Species law (Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS)
195D) prohibits take, possession, sale, transport, or commerce in
designated species. This State law also recognizes as endangered or
threatened those species determined to be endangered or threatened
pursuant to the Federal Endangered Species Act. This Hawaii law states
that a threatened species (under the Act) or an indigenous species may
be determined to be an endangered species under State law. Protection
of these species is under the authority of Hawaii's DLNR, and under
administrative rule (Hawaii Administrative Rules (HAR) 13-124-11).
Incidental take of threatened and endangered species may be authorized
through the issuance of a temporary license as part of a safe harbor
agreement (SHA) or habitat conservation plan (HCP) (HRS 195D-21, HCPs;
195D-22, SHAs). Although this State law can address threats such as
habitat modification, collisions, and other human-caused mortality
through HCPs that address the effects of individual projects or
programs on Hawaiian stilt, it does not address the pervasive threats
to the Hawaiian stilt posed by introduced mammalian predators.
The federal Clean Water Act (CWA) (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq. (1972))
was designed, in part, to protect surface waters of the United States
from unregulated pollution from point sources. The CWA provides some
benefit to Hawaiian stilts through the regulation of discharge into
surface waters through a permitting process. The CWA has significantly
slowed the permanent loss of wetlands throughout Hawaii.
In addition to these federal and state regulatory programs, a
variety of voluntary conservation partnerships have been formed to
protect and manage waterbird habitat. Examples of such partnership
opportunities include our Pacific Coast Joint Venture, Partners for
Fish and Wildlife Program, Coastal Program, and Habitat Conservation
Plan and Safe Harbor Agreement Programs; the multiagency Coastal
America program; restoration plans for hazardous materials spills that
target waterbird habitat; and the Natural Resources Conservation
Service's wetland restoration programs. Partnerships aim to encourage
landowners and private citizens to protect and preserve waterbirds and
their habitats through cooperative agreements and funding for habitat
restoration and creation.
Additional conservation organizations are contributing to the
recovery of Hawaii's endangered waterbirds, including the Hawaiian
stilt. The Nature Conservancy manages several ecological preserves in
the State. Ahahui Malama I Ka Lokahi and Kawai Nui Heritage Foundation
are watchdog organizations that oversee the future of Kawainui Marsh on
Oahu. They sponsor and lead educational tours and coordinate plant
restoration projects at Na Pohaku o Hauwahine. The Nature Center,
Wildlife Society, and University of Hawaii's Pacific Cooperative
Studies Unit all work on waterbird recovery issues. Private landowners
that also contribute to waterbird recovery include Kamehameha Schools,
Midler Family Trust, Arleone Dibben-Young (Nene O Molokai), and
Kaelepulu Wetland Preserve. Additionally, Ducks Unlimited, a nonprofit
wetlands conservation organization, works cooperatively with State and
Federal agencies as well as with private landowners and local
corporations on wetlands conservation and habitat restoration and
The Service also facilitates recovery implementation, including a
cooperative agreement with Chevron Refinery on Oahu during 1993-2004
that implemented terms to manage Rowland's Pond to maintain it as
nesting habitat for Hawaiian stilts. Activities included predator
control and vegetation management at Rowland's Pond, the Impounding
Basin, and Oxidation Ponds. From 2004 through 2016, Chevron Refinery
continued to manage the refinery grounds for the benefit of the
Hawaiian stilt and Hawaiian coot under a Safe Harbor Agreement. As a
result of this agreement, at least 419 Hawaiian stilt chicks fledged at
Chevron Refinery Hawaii during this period. In 2016, the complex was
purchased by IES Downstream, LLC (IES), and in 2018, IES sold a portion
of the refinery to PAR Hawaii Refining, LLC (PAR). Rowland's pond
remains within the IES owned portion of the refinery but IES has not
yet reached out to the Service for consultation. The Service is
currently providing technical assistance to PAR, who is currently
seeking a Habitat Conservation Plan for a low level of take. There are
no recent updates regarding the status of the Hawaiian stilts at this
The Service has also worked with a variety of partners implementing
management techniques that benefit Hawaiian stilts throughout its
range. Habitat management activities for the conservation of the
Hawaiian stilt include activities that maintain suitable habitat
conditions. These include vegetation management activities (for
example, weeding, mowing, herbicide application, out-planting of native
plants, mud flat creation), activities that maintain water levels
suitable for breeding or that maintain water quality (for example,
irrigating wetland habitat for conservation purposes), activities for
minimizing disease outbreaks (for example, monitoring for and
addressing dead or decaying animals, emergency botulism outbreak
responses), and large-scale restoration of native habitat (e.g., feral
ungulate, rat, and mongoose, control, and fencing).
Determination of Hawaiian Stilt Status
Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533) and its implementing
regulations (50 CFR part 424) set forth the procedures for determining
whether a species meets the definition of an ``endangered species'' or
a ``threatened species.'' The Act defines endangered species as a
species that is ``in danger of extinction throughout all or a
significant portion of its range,'' and a threatened species as a
species that is ``likely to become an endangered species within the
foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its
range.'' The Act requires that we determine whether a species meets the
definition of ``endangered species'' or ``threatened species'' because
of any of the following factors: (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 existence.
Status Throughout All of Its Range
We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats
to the Hawaiian stilt and its habitat. After evaluating threats to the
subspecies and assessing the cumulative effect of the threats under the
section 4(a)(1) factors, we have concluded that threats identified in
the earlier 5-year status review (USFWS 2010, entire) and the recovery
plan (USFWS 2011, entire) are ongoing at similar to increasing levels
(USFWS 2020, p. 20). The main threats to the Hawaiian stilt continue to
be the loss and degradation of habitat, including urban development,
alteration in ground and surface water associated with urban
development, invasion of habitat by nonnative plants, and sea level
rise (Factor A); predation by a variety of introduced mammalian species
(Factor C); and botulism (Factor C). Environmental contaminants are
also considered a rangewide threat (Factor E). A variety of voluntary
and regulatory conservation measures have helped to limit or reduce the
impact of these threats to the subspecies, and are anticipated to
continue into the foreseeable future (Factor D). A summary of these
efforts are outlined in Current Voluntary and Regulatory Conservation
Efforts, above. The best available information does not suggest that
collection of Hawaiian stilt is a current or future concern (Factor B)
and no other natural or manmade factors that operate at a scope,
magnitude, and intensity as to affect the viability of the subspecies,
either currently or in the future (Factor E).
The three key aspects of successful management of Hawaiian stilt
breeding populations are predator control, vegetation management to
provide more open areas, and water-level controls. These actions are in
place for the vast majority of the core wetlands (see Recovery Criteria
and Table 1). Further, 15 of the 34 supporting wetlands are in
protected status, and 11 have some form of either habitat or predator
management (see Recovery Criteria and Table 2).
Based on predictions of groundwater and coastal flooding and
inundation in Hawaiian coastal wetlands, sea level rise is likely to
continue to progressively affect Hawaiian stilt habitat (Factor A), as
by 2040, wetlands that exist at elevations near sea level without dune
barriers may be most affected (Kane and Fletcher 2013, p. 10). The
resulting groundwater and marine flooding and inundation can change the
amount of available Hawaiian stilt foraging and breeding habitat.
Expansion of current wetlands and newly created wetlands from rising
groundwater will create some new shallow water and mudflat areas for
foraging and breeding; however, currently existing shallow water and
mudflat areas will also be flooded (Rotzoll and Fletcher 2012, p. 477).
Coastal plain wetlands are also at risk of marine flooding and
inundation by storm surges, marine overwash, and high tides due to
coastal erosion from rising sea levels that elevate normal tides
(Fletcher et al. 1995, p. 203). Inundation can cause mortality to eggs
and chicks, with impacts that vary temporally and spatially (Peakall
1970, p. 73; Staples et al. 2005, p. 1910; Holmes and York 2003, p.
1795; Miles et al. 2015, p. 1). Creation of new or expansion of
existing wetlands due to marine flooding and inundation may also change
the salinity in wetlands which may encourage the expansion of salt
tolerant nonnative plants on mudflats. Increased vegetation on mudflats
can reduce available Hawaiian stilt nesting habitat. Marine inundation
and groundwater inundation will modify wetland habitat, but whether
there will be a net gain or loss of habitat is unknown (Polhemus 2015,
p. 25). Increases in foraging and breeding habitat from expanding or
newly created wetlands could offset losses from sea level rise;
however, this may occur outside of the area of current predator control
programs (Factor C). State and Federal land managers may need to adjust
existing programs and/or acquire lands in order to effectively support
Hawaiian stilt habitat in the new areas.
Avian botulism (Factor C) continues to be documented at wetlands
Statewide as a cause of mortality events in Hawaiian stilt and other
waterbird and waterfowl species (Dibben-Young 2016, pp. 4-5).
Environmental contaminants (Factor E) may also be a threat to Hawaiian
stilts using wetland habitats near urban areas.
As previously stated, the Hawaiian stilt is a conservation-reliant
subspecies (Reed et al. 2012, p. 888; Underwood et al. 2013, p. 1),
which means that it will require active management in perpetuity (Scott
et al. 2005, pp. 383-389; Scott et al. 2010, pp. 92-93: Goble et al.
2012, pp. 869-872). Management actions aimed at reducing or eliminating
predators and control of both vegetation and water levels occurs in the
majority of the core wetlands. Sea level rise due to climate change
adds a high degree of uncertainty to the net gain or loss of foraging
and breeding habitat, which will likely challenge current management
Despite these ongoing threats, the Hawaiian stilt population is
stable to increasing population (Reed et al. 2011b, pp. 475-476, 478-
479; USFWS 2011a, p. iv; DOFAW 2020). We conclude that the Hawaiian
stilt population has maintained resiliency, redundancy, and
representation over the past few decades. Having multiple breeding
populations spread out across the main Hawaiian Islands affords the
subspecies some protection from both stochastic and catastrophic
events. Additionally, the subspecies will continue to be monitored in
the biannual waterbird count, as well as at numerous NWRs across the
State, to detect any changes that reflect a change in the current
status of the subspecies. The current status of the subspecies has
improved from the time of listing.
Considering the best available information, including the stability
of the population demonstrated over decades, the new data presented in
the preliminary 2019 PVA, and the demonstrated adaptability and
resiliency of the subspecies, in combination with the expectation that
existing conservation actions at their present scope and intensity will
continue into the foreseeable future, we conclude that the subspecies
no longer meets the Act's definition of an endangered species
throughout all of its range. Therefore, we proceed with determining
whether the Hawaiian stilt is likely to become endangered within the
foreseeable future throughout all of its range.
To determine if a species is considered a threatened species under
the Act, we look to future threats facing the species and how the
species will likely respond to those threats. The foreseeable future
considers population status, trends, and threats for the species.
Collective management efforts aimed at the subspecies for the
conservation of Hawaiian stilt have been sufficient to maintain a
stable population, and it appears that the subspecies is at or near
carrying capacity--limited primarily by amount of managed wetland
habitat as this is a conservation-reliant subspecies. Hawaiian stilts
continue to face significant ongoing threats, as discussed under
Summary of Biological Status and Threats. The threat of predation of
Hawaiian stilt eggs, chicks, and adults by a myriad of animals is
ongoing, despite implementation of predator control at most core
wetlands and many supporting wetlands (Tables 1 and 2). Impacts of sea
level rise are expected to progressively increase, resulting in
moderate impacts on coastal habitat by 2040. Pressure to alter ground
surface water continues with ongoing urban development. Although the
preliminary results from a 2019 PVA predict a zero percent chance of
extinction over 80 years as long as current management practices
continue, it also notes that the population is sensitive to changes in
vital rates. For example, if adult mortality increases by just 10
percent, the species has a high probability of extinction (Reed and van
Rees 2019 p. 1). Thus, the best available information is consistent
with these threats (excluding sea-level rise) having been managed
sufficiently over the past several decades such that reproductive
success in managed sites supports a stable Statewide population, so
that the subspecies is not immediately in danger of extinction. The PVA
does have several limitations that suggests this is only one tool for
us to consider reclassification. Foremost is that the PVA does not
account for changes in quality or availability of currently managed
habitat due to the effects of sea level rise.
The Hawaiian stilt remains vulnerable to the continuing threat of
predation and habitat loss and degradation by several means, and
maintaining current population levels (and viability) is contingent
upon ongoing commitment to management of wetland habitat and predators
at their present scope and intensity. In particular, the demographic
data used to provide working assumptions of the preliminary results of
the 2019 PVA derives from studies on sites with active habitat and
predator management, so reducing management efforts would render its
conclusions less applicable; risk of extinction appears particularly
sensitive to increases in adult mortality (Reed and van Rees 2019 p.
24). Sustained management commitments are necessary to keep these vital
rates at manageable levels (e.g., below 34 percent annual adult
mortality). Expansion of existing efforts on current core and
supporting wetlands and expansion of the habitat and predator
management onto new sites (other core, other supporting wetlands or
other suitable locations) would greatly enhance the recovery potential
of this subspecies.
The threat of sea level rise is also likely to increase over time
and can be expected to alter the spatial distribution and quality of
wetland habitats and require adaptive changes in which sites will be
the focus of management. Thus, after assessing the best available
information, we conclude that the Hawaiian stilt is not currently in
danger of extinction, but is likely to become in danger of extinction
in the foreseeable throughout all of its range (i.e., meets the Act's
definition of a threatened species).
Status Throughout a Significant Portion of Its Range
Under the Act and our implementing regulations, a species may
warrant listing if it is in danger of extinction or likely to become so
in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of
its range. The court in Center for Biological Diversity v. Everson,
2020 WL 437289 (D.D.C. Jan. 28, 2020) (Center for Biological
Diversity), vacated the aspect of the 2014 Significant Portion of its
Range Policy that provided that the Services do not undertake an
analysis of significant portions of a species' range if the species
warrants listing as threatened throughout all of its range. Therefore,
we proceed to evaluating whether the species is endangered in a
significant portion of its range--that is, whether there is any portion
of the species' range for which both (1) the portion is significant;
and (2) the species is in danger of extinction in that portion.
Depending on the case, it might be more efficient for us to address the
``significance'' question or the ``status'' question first. We can
choose to address either question first. Regardless of which question
we address first, if we reach a negative answer with respect to the
first question that we address, we do not need to evaluate the other
question for that portion of the species' range.
Following the court's holding in Center for Biological Diversity,
we now consider whether there are any significant portions of the
subspecies' range where the subspecies is in danger of extinction now
(i.e., endangered). In undertaking this analysis for Hawaiian stilt, we
choose to address the status question first--we consider information
pertaining to the geographic distribution of both the subspecies and
the threats that the subspecies faces to identify any portions of the
range where the subspecies is endangered.
Based upon best available information, Hawaiian stilts disperse
frequently between the main Hawaiian Islands and they readily colonize
newly restored or created habitats suggesting that Hawaiian stilt in
Hawaii form one large population (van Rees et al.. 2020, p. 3, with
supporting literature). Thus, there is no biologically meaningful way
to break this subspecies' range into portions, and the threats that the
subspecies faces affect the subspecies throughout its entire range.
This means that no portions of the subspecies' range have a different
status from its rangewide status. Therefore, no portion of the
subspecies' range can provide a basis for determining that the
subspecies is in danger of extinction in a significant portion of its
range, and we determine that the subspecies is likely to become in
danger of extinction within the foreseeable future throughout all of
its range. Our analysis is consistent with the courts' holdings in
Desert Survivors v. Department of the Interior, No. 16-cv-01165-JCS,
2018 WL 4053447 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2018), and Center for Biological
Diversity v. Jewell, 248 F. Supp. 3d, 946, 959 (D. Ariz. 2017).
Determination of Status
Our review of the best available scientific and commercial
information indicates that the Hawaiian stilt meets the definition of a
threatened subspecies. Therefore, we propose to reclassify the Hawaiian
stilt as a threatened subspecies in accordance with sections 3(20) and
4(a)(1) of the Act.
Proposed Rule Issued Under Section 4(d) of the Act
Section 4(d) of the Act contains two sentences. The first sentence
states that the ``Secretary shall issue such regulations as he deems
necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation'' of species
listed as threatened. The U.S. Supreme Court has noted that statutory
language like ``necessary and advisable'' demonstrates a large degree
of deference to the agency (see Webster v. Doe, 486 U.S. 592 (1988)).
Conservation is defined in the Act to mean ``the use of all methods and
procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or
threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant
to [the Act] are no longer necessary.'' Additionally, the second
sentence of section 4(d) of the Act states that the Secretary ``may by
regulation prohibit with respect to any threatened species any act
prohibited under section 9(a)(1), in the case of fish or wildlife, or
section 9(a)(2), in the case of plants.'' Thus, the combination of the
two sentences of section 4(d) provides the Secretary with wide latitude
of discretion to select and promulgate appropriate regulations tailored
to the specific conservation needs of the threatened species. The
second sentence grants particularly broad discretion to us when
adopting the prohibitions under section 9.
The courts have recognized the extent of the Secretary's discretion
under this standard to develop rules that are appropriate for the
conservation of a species. For example, courts have
upheld rules developed under section 4(d) as a valid exercise of agency
authority where they prohibit take of threatened wildlife or include a
limited taking prohibition (see Alsea Valley Alliance v. Lautenbacher,
2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 60203 (D. Or. 2007); Washington Environmental
Council v. National Marine Fisheries Service, 2002 U.S. Dist. Lexis
5432 (W.D. Wash. 2002)). Courts have also upheld 4(d) rules that do not
address all of the threats a species faces (see State of Louisiana v.
Verity, 853 F.2d 322 (5th Cir. 1988)). As noted in the legislative
history when the Act was initially enacted, ``once an animal is on the
threatened list, the Secretary has an almost infinite number of options
available to him with regard to the permitted activities for those
species. He may, for example, permit taking, but not importation of
such species, or he may choose to forbid both taking and importation
but allow the transportation of such species'' (H.R. Rep. No. 412, 93rd
Cong., 1st Sess. 1973).
Exercising this authority under section 4(d), we have developed a
proposed rule that is designed to address the specific threats to and
conservation needs of the Hawaiian stilt. Although the statute does not
require us to make a ``necessary and advisable'' finding with respect
to the adoption of specific prohibitions under section 9, we find that
this proposed rule as a whole satisfies the requirement in section 4(d)
of the Act to issue regulations deemed necessary and advisable to
provide for the conservation of the Hawaiian stilt.
As discussed under Summary of Biological Status and Threats, we
have concluded that the Hawaiian stilt is likely to become in danger of
extinction within the foreseeable future primarily due to predation by
nonnative animals (i.e., mongooses, rats, cats, dogs, carnivorous
birds, and bullfrogs); habitat loss and degradation by urban
development, altered ground and surface water for urban expansion,
overgrowth of nonnative plants, sea level rise associated with climate
change (both coastal and groundwater flooding and inundation); disease,
primarily botulism caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum (type
C); and environmental contaminants. Additionally, Hawaiian stilt
habitat is anticipated to be negatively impacted in the near future by
an increase in frequency and intensity of hurricanes associated with
climate change, which may also directly harm individuals, eggs, or
nesting success through flooding.
The provisions of this proposed 4(d) rule would promote
conservation of the Hawaiian stilt by encouraging activities that
facilitate conservation and management of the Hawaiian stilt and its
habitat where it currently occurs and may occur in the future. Thus, we
are encouraging management of the landscape in ways that meet both land
management considerations and the conservation needs of the Hawaiian
stilt. The provisions of this proposed rule are one of many tools that
we would use to promote the conservation of the Hawaiian stilt. This
proposed 4(d) rule would apply only if and when we make final the
reclassification of the Hawaiian stilt as a threatened subspecies.
Provisions of the Proposed 4(d) Rule
This proposed 4(d) rule would provide for the conservation of the
Hawaiian stilt by prohibiting the following activities, except as
otherwise authorized or permitted: Take (i.e., harass, harm, pursue,
hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to
engage in any such conduct); importing or exporting; possession and
other acts with unlawfully taken specimens; delivering, receiving,
transporting, or shipping in interstate or foreign commerce in the
course of commercial activity; or selling or offering for sale in
interstate or foreign commerce. These prohibitions would result in
regulating a range of human activities that have the potential to
affect the viability of the Hawaiian stilt, including agricultural or
urban development; recreational and commercial activities; introduction
of predators; and direct capture, injury, or killing of Hawaiian
stilts. Regulating these activities will help preserve the Hawaiian
stilt population. This proposed 4(d) rule would also provide for the
conservation of the subspecies by providing select exceptions to the
prohibitions for the purpose of promoting conservation of Hawaiian
stilt and expansion of their range by increasing flexibility in
management activities for State and private landowners. Below we
outline each prohibition and any exceptions, as well as provide our
justification for their inclusion in this proposed 4(d) rule.
Prohibition of Take
Under the Act, ``take'' means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot,
wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any
such conduct. Some of these provisions have been further defined in
regulation at 50 CFR 17.3. Take can result knowingly or otherwise, by
direct and indirect impacts, intentionally or incidentally. Regulating
incidental and intentional take will help preserve the Hawaiian stilt
population and decrease synergistic, negative effects from other
Rangewide threats continue to act on the subspecies, and its
viability remains reliant on the implementation of conservation actions
(see Summary of Biological Status and Threats). However, as explained
below, there are a few circumstances in which allowing either
intentional or incidental take will benefit the Hawaiian stilt as a
subspecies and further its recovery. We have outlined three
circumstances below as proposed exceptions to the proposed prohibition
of take. By allowing take under these three circumstances, the proposed
rule would provide needed protection to the subspecies while allowing
management flexibility to benefit the subspecies' long-term
Proposed Take Exceptions
1. Take that is incidental to conducting lawful nonnative predator
control or conducting lawful habitat management activities (from a
Service and DOFAW-approved list of such activities) for the
conservation benefit of Hawaiian stilts or other native waterbirds.
Rationale: Control of introduced predators and habitat management
are identified as primary recovery actions for the Hawaiian stilt
(USFWS 2011, p. 10). Predation is the greatest threat to Hawaiian
stilts, followed by habitat loss and degradation or modification. We
propose a take exception for the incidental take of stilts during
control of predators (e.g., mongoose, dogs (feral and domestic), feral
pigs, cats (feral and domestic), rats, bullfrogs, cattle egrets, and
barn owls) designed to protect stilts (or other native waterbirds) or
habitat management activities designed to protect stilts (or other
native waterbirds). This exception to the prohibition of take will help
to reduce or eliminate the depredation of Hawaiian stilts during all
life stages, provide sufficient nesting habitat to support the
reproductive needs of the population, and provide our conservation
partners the flexibility to practice adaptive management to meet the
needs of the subspecies. The Service and DOFAW will maintain a list of
acceptable habitat conservation management activities; for the current
list, contact the Service or DOFAW. We propose this exception to take
Predators are managed using a variety of methods, including
shooting, and toxicants. All methods must be used in compliance with
State and Federal regulations. In addition to the application of the
above tools, predator control as defined includes activities related to
predator control, such as performing efficacy surveys, trap checks, and
maintenance duties. Nesting success is higher for Hawaiian stilts that
nest earlier in the season; therefore, implementing predator control
during this time may be most beneficial to the subspecies (Price 2020,
During lawful predator control, or lawful habitat management
activities from the Service and DOFAW-approved list, incidental take of
Hawaiian stilts (eggs, chicks, fledglings, or adults) may occur in the
form of temporary displacement due to human presence, unintentional
injury, or death (e.g., accidental ingestion of chemical approved for
predator control, collision or crushing by means of mechanical
machinery). Reasonable care must be practiced to minimize the effects
of such taking and may include, but is not limited to: (a) Procuring
and implementing technical assistance from a qualified biologist(s) on
predator control or habitat management methods, techniques, and
protocols prior to application of methods; (b) compliance with all
applicable regulations and following principles of integrated pest
management and habitat management; and (c) judicious use of methods and
tool adaptations to reduce hazards to Hawaiian stilts (e.g., ingest
bait, injury or death from an interaction with mechanical devices).
2. Take by authorized law enforcement officers for the purposes of
aiding or euthanizing sick, injured, or orphaned Hawaiian stilts;
disposing of dead specimens; and salvaging a dead specimen that may be
used for scientific study.
Rationale: The increased interaction of Hawaiian stilts with the
human environment subsequently increases the likelihood of encounters
with orphaned, injured, sick, or dead Hawaiian stilts. By providing an
exception for law enforcement officers in consultation with State
wildlife biologists to provide aid to orphaned, injured, or sick
Hawaiian stilts, or disposal or salvage of dead Hawaiian stilts, we
increase the odds for saving orphaned, injured, or sick Hawaiian stilts
and may maximize the use of carcasses for research purposes that may
inform management decisions and further the recovery of the subspecies.
Prohibition of Import, Export, and Interstate and Foreign Commerce
We have proposed to include the prohibition of import, export,
interstate and foreign commerce, and sale or offering for sale in such
commerce of the Hawaiian stilt in this proposed rule to complement and
support our proposal to include the prohibition of take. Because the
Hawaiian stilt is not known to be held in captivity for commercial,
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes, any such exchange of
the subspecies would require removing one or more individuals
(including eggs) from the sole population of the subspecies resulting
in take. Additionally, because the Hawaiian stilt is a conservation-
reliant subspecies and likely to become in danger of extinction within
the foreseeable future due to the threats discussed above and under
Summary of Biological Status and Threats, any major reduction in
population size by intentional removal of individuals would negatively
impact the viability of the subspecies. Therefore, regulating the
import, export, and interstate and foreign commerce of Hawaiian stilt
will help to preserve their population. There are no proposed
exceptions for these prohibitions.
Prohibition of Possession and Other Acts With Unlawfully Taken
Although the Hawaiian stilt population is currently stable, it is
considered a conservation-reliant subspecies and requires active
management to maintain this stability. The Hawaiian stilt is not
thriving to the degree that its population is considered capable of
sustaining unrestricted capture or collection from the wild without the
likelihood of negative impacts to the long-term viability of the
subspecies. Because capture and collection of Hawaiian stilts remains
prohibited as discussed above, maintaining the complementary
prohibition on possession and other acts with illegally taken Hawaiian
stilts will further discourage such illegal take. Thus, we propose to
prohibit the possession, sale, offering for sale, delivery, receiving,
carrying, transporting, or shipping of illegally taken Hawaiian stilts
intrastate (within State), interstate (between States), and
internationally in order to maintain the viability of the Hawaiian
stilt population. Regulating these human activities will contribute to
the preservation of the subspecies. There are no proposed exceptions to
We may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities,
including those described above, involving threatened wildlife under
certain circumstances. Regulations governing permits are codified at 50
CFR 17.32. With regard to threatened wildlife, a permit may be issued
for the following purposes: Scientific purposes, to enhance propagation
or survival, for economic hardship, for zoological exhibition, for
educational purposes, for incidental taking, or for special purposes
consistent with the purposes of the Act. There are also certain
statutory exemptions from the prohibitions, which are found in sections
9 and 10 of the Act.
We recognize the special and unique relationship with our State
natural resource agency partners in contributing to conservation of
listed subspecies. State agencies often possess scientific data and
valuable expertise on the status and distribution of endangered,
threatened, and candidate species of wildlife and plants. State
agencies, because of their authorities and their close working
relationships with local governments and landowners, are in a unique
position to assist us in implementing all aspects of the Act. In this
regard, section 6 of the Act provides that we shall cooperate to the
maximum extent practicable with the States in carrying out programs
authorized by the Act. Therefore, any qualified employee or agent of a
State conservation agency that is a party to a cooperative agreement
with us in accordance with section 6(c) of the Act, who is designated
by his or her agency for such purposes, would be able to conduct
activities designed to conserve the Hawaiian stilt that may result in
otherwise prohibited take without additional authorization.
Nothing in this proposed 4(d) rule would change in any way the
recovery planning provisions of section 4(f) of the Act, the
consultation requirements under section 7 of the Act, or our ability to
enter into partnerships for the management and protection of the
Hawaiian stilt. However, interagency cooperation may be further
streamlined through planned programmatic consultations for the
subspecies between us and other Federal agencies, where appropriate. We
ask the public, particularly State agencies and other interested
stakeholders that may be affected by the proposed 4(d) rule, to provide
comments and suggestions regarding additional guidance and methods that
we could provide or use, respectively, to streamline the implementation
of this proposed 4(d) rule (see Information Requested).
If finalized, the provisions in this proposed 4(d) rule would
address only Federal Endangered Species Act requirements, and would not
change State law. State law requires the issuance of a temporary
license for the take of endangered and threatened animal species, if
the activity otherwise prohibited is: (1) For scientific purposes or to
enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species (HRS 195D-
4(f)); or (2) incidental to an otherwise lawful activity (HRS 195D-
4(g)). Incidental take licenses require the development of a habitat
conservation plan (HRS 195D-21) or a safe harbor agreement (HRS 195D-
22), and consultation with the State's Endangered Species Recovery
Committee. Therefore, if this rule is finalized, persons would still
need to obtain a State permit for some of the actions described in this
proposed 4(d) rule.
Clarity of the Rule
We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the
Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain
language. This means that each rule we publish must:
(1) Be logically organized;
(2) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
(3) Use clear language rather than jargon;
(4) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
(5) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us
comments by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. To better help us
revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For
example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections or paragraphs
that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long,
the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc.
National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)
We have determined that environmental analyses as defined under the
authority of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C.
4321 et seq.), need not be prepared in connection with determining and
implementing a species' listing status under the Endangered Species
Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination
in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).
A complete list of references cited in this rulemaking is available
on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the
Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
The primary authors of this proposed rule are the staff members of
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Species Assessment Team and the
Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office.
List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17
Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.
Proposed Regulation Promulgation
Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter
I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:
PART 17--ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:
Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 1531-1544; and 4201-4245,
unless otherwise noted.
2. Amend Sec. 17.11(h) by revising the entry for ``Stilt, Hawaiian''
under Birds in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife to read
Sec. 17.11 Endangered and threatened wildlife.
* * * * *
(h) * * *
Common name Scientific name Where listed Status and applicable
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
Stilt, Hawaiian (aeo)........... Himantopus Wherever found..... T 35 FR 16047, 10/13/
mexicanus knudseni. 1970; [Federal
of the final
rule]; 50 CFR
* * * * * * *
3. Amend Sec. 17.41 by adding paragraph (j) to read as follows:
Sec. 17.41 Special rules--birds.
* * * * *
(j) Hawaiian stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni) (aeo).
(1) Definition. For the purposes of this paragraph (j), ``qualified
biologist'' means an individual with a combination of academic training
in the area of wildlife biology or related discipline and demonstrated
field experience in the identification and life history of the Hawaiian
(2) Prohibitions. The following prohibitions that apply to
endangered wildlife also apply to the Hawaiian stilt. Except as
provided under paragraph (j)(3) of this section and Sec. Sec. 17.4
through 17.6, it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction
of the United States to commit, to attempt to commit, to solicit
another to commit, or cause to be committed, any of the following acts
in regard to this species:
(i) Import or export, as set forth at Sec. 17.21(b) for endangered
(ii) Take, as set forth at Sec. 17.21(c)(1) for endangered
(iii) Possession and other acts with unlawfully taken specimens, as
set forth at Sec. 17.21(d)(1) for endangered wildlife.
(iv) Interstate or foreign commerce in the course of commercial
activity, as set forth at Sec. 17.21(e) for endangered wildlife.
(v) Sale or offer for sale, as set forth at Sec. 17.21(f) for
(3) Exceptions from prohibitions. In regard to this species, you
(i) Conduct activities as authorized by a permit under Sec. 17.32.
(ii) Take, as set forth at Sec. 17.21(c)(2) through (4) for
endangered wildlife and
(c)(6) and (7) for endangered migratory birds.
(iii) Take when the take is incidental to an otherwise lawful
activity caused by:
(A) Nonnative predator control or habitat management activities for
Hawaiian stilt or other native waterbird conservation purposes. A
qualified biologist, or personnel working under their direct
supervision, may incidentally take Hawaiian stilt in the course of
carrying out nonnative predator control or habitat management
activities for Hawaiian stilt conservation purposes if reasonable care
is practiced to minimize effects to the Hawaiian stilt as follows:
(1) Nonnative predator control activities for the conservation of
the Hawaiian stilt, or other native Hawaiian waterbirds, which may
include the use of fencing, trapping, shooting, and toxicants to
control predators, and related activities such as performing efficacy
surveys, trap checks, and maintenance duties. Reasonable care for
predator control activities may include, but is not limited to,
procuring and implementing technical assistance from a qualified
biologist on predator control methods and protocols prior to
application of methods; compliance with all State and Federal
regulations and guidelines for application of predator control methods;
and judicious use of methods and tool adaptations to reduce the
likelihood of Hawaiian stilt ingesting bait or being injured or dying
from interaction with mechanical devices. A list of currently
acceptable predator control methods is available by contacting the
Service or State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources,
Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
(2) Habitat management activities for the conservation of the
Hawaiian stilt, or other native waterbirds, as long as the activities
benefit Hawaiian stilts, which may include: Weeding, mowing,
fertilizing, herbicide application, water level maintenance, water
quality monitoring and maintenance, sedimentation and dead or decaying
animal monitoring and maintenance, outplanting native plants, creating
mudflats, and irrigating wetland habitat for conservation purposes (if
mechanical mowing of pastures adjacent to wetlands for conservation
management purposes is not feasible, alternate methods of keeping grass
short may be used, such as grazing); emergency botulism outbreak
responses; and large-scale restoration of native habitat (e.g., feral
ungulate control, fencing). Reasonable care for habitat management may
include, but is not limited to, procuring and implementing technical
assistance from a qualified biologist on habitat management activities,
and documented best efforts to minimize Hawaiian stilt exposure to
hazards (e.g., predation, crushing by vehicle or machinery). A list of
currently acceptable management activities is available by contacting
the Service or State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural
Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
(B) Actions carried out by law enforcement officers in the course
of official law enforcement duties. When acting in the course of their
official duties, State and local government law enforcement officers,
working in conjunction with authorized wildlife biologists and wildlife
rehabilitators in the State of Hawaii, may take Hawaiian stilt for the
(1) Aiding or euthanizing sick, injured, or orphaned Hawaiian
(2) Disposing of a dead specimen; or
(3) Salvaging a dead specimen that may be used for scientific
(4) Possession and other acts with unlawfully taken specimens as
provided in Sec. 17.21(d)(2) through (4).
(4) Reporting and disposal requirements. Any injury or mortality of
Hawaiian stilt associated with the actions excepted under paragraphs
(j)(3)(iii)(A) and (B) of this section must be reported to the Service
and authorized State wildlife officials within 48 hours, and specimens
may be disposed of only in accordance with directions from the Service.
Reports should be made to the Service's Office of Law Enforcement
(contact information is at 50 CFR 10.22) or the Service's Pacific
Islands Fish and Wildlife Office (contact information for the Service
regional offices is at 50 CFR 2.2). Alternatively, the State of Hawaii
Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and
Wildlife, may be contacted.
The Principal Deputy Director, Exercising the Delegated Authority
of the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, approved this document
and authorized the undersigned to sign and submit the document to the
Office of the Federal Register for publication electronically as an
official document of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Martha
Williams, Principal Deputy Director, Exercising the Delegated Authority
of the Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, approved this document
on March 16, 2021, for publication.
Dated: March 16, 2021.
Regulations and Policy Chief, Division of Policy, Economics, Risk
Management, and Analytics, Joint Administrative Operations, U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2021-05846 Filed 3-24-21; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4333-15-P