Critical Habitat for 12 Hawaiʻi Island Species

In March 2024, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (Service) published a final rulemaking decision for 14 federally listed species on the island of Hawai‘i.  Critical habitat was designated for 12 of the species encompassing approximately 119,326 acres of federal, state, and private lands on the Island of Hawai‘i. The designation identifies specific areas with habitat that are essential to the conservation and recovery of 11 plants and one picture-wing fly, and where federal actions in these areas will initiate coordination with the Service to minimize and/or mitigate impacts to their critical habitat. We have also determined that critical habitat may not be prudent for two species — the loulu palm (Pritchardia lanigera) and ʻopāe pond shrimp (Vetericaris chaceorum)) — because they are at risk of removal in the wild by unpermitted collectors.


Final Critical Habitat for 12 Species on Hawaiʻi Island

Online Critical Habitat Mapper


When a species is proposed for listing as endangered or threatened under the ESA, we are required to identify specific areas that are essential for conservation of the species — the species’ critical habitat.

All 14 species are endemic to the Island of Hawai‘i and found nowhere else. All 14 listed as endangered on October 29, 2013 (78 FR 64638), under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. As island endemics, all of these species have historically had a limited geographic range; however, habitat loss caused by introduced ungulates, fire, drought, invasive plants and plant disease have resulted in further contraction of these species’ ranges. The 12 species for which we have designated critical habitat co-occur across six ecosystems: coastal, dry forest, mesic forest, wet forest, mesic grassland and shrubland, and wet grassland and shrubland.

  1. Bidens hillebrandiana ssp. hillebrandiana(koʻokoʻolau) is a short-lived perennial herb that occurs in coastal and dry cliff ecosystems on rocky substrate near the shoreline. It is found on the windward eastern coast of Kohala near the northern tip of the island. Bidens hillebrandiana ssp. hillebrandiana critical habitat.
  2. Cyanea marksii (hāhā) is a short-lived perennial, shrub or palm-like tree and is found on the west side of the island in the district of South Kona. Cyanea marksii critical habitat.
  3. Cyanea tritomantha (‘akū) is a palm-like shrub distributed across the windward slopes of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Kīlauea, and the Kohala Mountains. Cyanea tritomantha critical habitat.
  4. Cyrtandra nanawaleensis (ha‘iwale) is a shrub or small tree found in wet forest ecosystems in the Puna district. Cyrtandra nanawaleensis critical habitat.
  5. Cyrtandra wagneri (ha‘iwale, kanawao ke‘oke‘o) is a shrub or small tree found in wet forest ecosystems along the northeast side of the island. Cyrtandra wagneri critical habitat.
  6. Melicope remyi (no common name) is a long-lived perennial shrub found on the windward slopes of the Kohala Mountains and Mauna Kea. Melicope remyi critical habitat.
  7. Phyllostegia floribunda (no common name) is a perennial shrub found in mesic forest and wet forest ecosystems along the eastern side of the island. Phyllostegia floribunda critical habitat.
  8. Pittosporum hawaiiense (hōʻawa, hāʻawa) is a small tree found in mesic and wet ecosystems on the island. Pittosporum hawaiiense critical habitat.
  9. Pritchardia lanigera (loulu) is a medium-sized palm tree known from the Kohala mountains-Hāmākua district and the windward slopes of Mauna Kea. Critical habitat - Not prudent.
  10. Schiedea diffusa ssp. macraei (no common name) is a perennial climbing herb found in the wet forest ecosystem of the Kohala Mountains and the windward slopes of Mauna Loa. Schiedea diffusa ssp. macraeicritical habitat. 
  11. Schiedea hawaiiensis (māʻoliʻoli) is a perennial herb, and at the time of listing, occurs only at a single site in dry forest habitat between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea mountains. Schiedea hawaiiensiscritical habitat. 
  12. Stenogyne cranwelliae (no common name) is a vine found in the Kohala Mountains in wet forest habitat. Stenogyne cranwelliae critical habitat
  13. Vetericaris chaceorum (ʻopāe) is a small shrimp found in inland anchialine pools of mixed salinity formed by coastal lava flows or limestone exposures. Critical habitat - Not prudent. 
  14. Drosophila digressa (Hawaiʻi picture-wing fly) has historically been found in five locations on the island in elevations from 2,000 to 4,500 feet in mesic forest and wet forest habitats. Drosophila digressa critical habitat


The Service received comments, feedback, and concerns from the general public, environmental organizations, federal and state partners during a 60-day comment period from March to May 2023 which included a virtual public hearing held on April 20, 2023. We fully considered these comments which are addressed in the final rule under Summary of Comments and Recommendations and resulted in minor changes to the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat areas.

Our staff from the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office sincerely thank all who had submitted written and oral comments on the proposed designation. This coordination with local communities and partners enhances the Service’s ability to carry out conservation and protection of these species throughout the Hawaiʻi Island.

For further information contact: Lindsy Asman, listing and classification team manager, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, by email at

Other Resources


Q: What is the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and why is it so important?

A: The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is the most significant piece of endangered species legislation and is considered one of the world’s most important conservation laws. It highlighted the concern that many of our nation’s native plants and animals are in danger of becoming extinct. The ESA provides the protection of ecosystems, the conservation of endangered and threatened species, and the enforcement of all treaties related to wildlife preservation. The ESA has been highly effective and credited with saving 99% of listed species from extinction.

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, which today protects 1,670 species in the U.S. and an additional 698 species across the globe. With ongoing threats such as habitat loss and new threats like climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

Learn more about climate change
, a commitment to species conservation and the ESA, continues to be vital.

Q: What is critical habitat?

A: Critical habitat is the specific areas within the geographic area, occupied by the species at the time it was listed, that contain the physical or biological features that are essential to the conservation of the endangered or threatened species, and that may need special management or protection. Critical habitat may also include areas that were not occupied by the species at the time of listing but are essential to its conservation. 

Under the ESA, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable, the Service must designate critical habitat for any species listed as an endangered or threatened species. Making a critical habitat determination can be completed only by issuing a rule through the Administrative Procedure Act rulemaking process (5 U.S.C. 551 et seq.).

Q: Can areas be excluded from critical habitat?

A: Yes. An area may be excluded from critical habitat designation based on economic impact, the impact on national security, or any other relevant impact, if we determine that the benefits of excluding it outweigh the benefits of including it, unless failure to designate the area as critical habitat may lead to extinction of the species.

Q: How does critical habitat affect me?

A: Critical habitat designations affect only Federal agency actions or federally funded or permitted activities. Critical habitat designations do not affect activities by private landowners if there is no Federal “nexus”—that is, no Federal funding, permit, or license involved. Federal agencies are required to avoid “destruction” or “adverse modification” of designated critical habitat. Federal agencies work with the Service to amend their projects, enabling it to proceed without adversely affecting critical habitat. Most federal projects are likely to go forward, but some may be modified to minimize harm.

Critical habitat does not prevent all development or other activities that occur in a designated area. Critical habitat does not affect private land ownership or activities if there is no federal nexus. Critical habitat does not mandate government or public access to private lands; and does not establish a refuge, wilderness reserve, preserve, or other special conservation area conservation area
A conservation area or wildlife management area is a type of national wildlife refuge that consists primarily or entirely of conservation easements on private lands. These conservation easements support private landowner efforts to protect important habitat for fish and wildlife. There are 13 conservation areas and nine wildlife management areas in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Learn more about conservation area

Q: Why did the Service decide to not propose critical habitat for the loulu plant (Pritchardia lanigera) and ʻopāe (Vetericaris chaceorum)?

A: The Service has determined that designating critical habitat for these two species is not prudent because designation of critical habitat would increase the threats to these species from unauthorized collection and trade. Due to the willingness of individuals to collect these species without authorization, we have determined that any action that publicly discloses the location of Pritchardia lanigera and Vetericaris chaceorum (such as critical habitat) puts these species in further peril.

Q: Can the Service do something to stop people from collecting or overharvesting species that are protected by the ESA?

A: Our ability to enforce unauthorized collection is determined on a case by case basis. Unfortunately, in this instance, we do not have the capacity to ensure no unauthorized collection of loulu or ʻopāe occurs.

Q: What are critical habitat requirements?

A: Once critical habitat is designated, federal agencies must consult with the USFWS to ensure that any activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. Critical habitat requirements do not apply to citizens engaged in activities on private land that do not involve a federal agency (for example, a private landowner undertaking a project that involves no federal funding or permitting). The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness reserve, preserve, or other special conservation area. Critical habitat designations also do not mandate government or public access to private lands.

Q: How do I obtain more detailed maps of the proposed critical habitat boundaries?

A: The critical habitat designation is defined by the map or maps, as modified by any accompanying regulatory text, presented at the end of the final rule, under the Regulation Promulgation section. We include more detailed information on the boundaries of the critical habitat designation in the preamble of the rule. We will make the coordinates or plot points or both on which each map is based, available to the public on at Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2023-0017. Additionally, all final and proposed critical habitat can be viewed using the Service’s online mapper.


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Welcome to the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office! We are part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's ecological services program. Here we work closely with partners to conserve fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats throughout Pacific Islands. The areas we help to protect include the...