Proposed Critical Habitat for 12 Species on Hawaiʻi Island

Critical Habitat

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to designate approximately 122,277 acres as critical habitat for 12 federally endangered species on the island of Hawai‘i. Of these 12 species, 11 are plants and one is a picture-wing fly. We have also determined that critical habitat may not be prudent for two additional 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.


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 (Act), 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 species’ ranges. The 12 species for which we are proposing 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.
  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.
  3. Cyanea tritomantha (‘akū) is a palm-like shrub distributed across the windward slopes of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Kīlauea, and the Kohala Mountains.
  4. Cyrtandrananawaleensis (ha‘iwale) is a shrub or small tree found in wet forest ecosystems in the Puna district.
  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.
  6. Melicope remyi (no common name) is a long-lived perennial shrub found on the windward slopes of the Kohala Mountains and Mauna Kea.
  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.
  8. Pittosporum hawaiiense (hōʻawa, hāʻawa) is a small tree found in mesic and wet ecosystems on the island.
  9. Pritchardia lanigera (loulu) is a medium-sized palm tree known from the Kohala mountains-Hāmākua district and the windward slopes of Mauna Kea.
  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.
  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.
  12. Stenogyne cranwelliae (no common name) is a vine found in the Kohala Mountains in wet forest 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.
  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.


To read the news release: Click Here

To read the proposed rule: Click Here

Public Comment Request:

The public comment period for this proposed rule has CLOSED.

The proposed rule was available for public comment for 60 days, starting March 29, 2023, and concluding May, 30, 2023.

During this time, the public was invited to submit written comments electronically or by mail, and orally during a virtual public hearing. The Service held a joint virtual public informational meeting and public hearing on April 20, 2023. A recording of the informational meeting and public hearing can be viewed below:

The Service thanks all who had submitted written and oral comments during the comment period. All received comments will be fully considered by the Service before any final rule is published.

For further information contact: Lasha-Lynn Salbosa, Classification Program Manager, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, by email at




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.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, which today protects 1,662 species in the U.S. and an additional 638 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: What does this proposed rule do?

A: This rule proposes to designate approximately 122,277 acres (ac) as critical habitat for 12 federally endangered species (11 plants, 1 insect) on the island of Hawai‘i. We are also making a determination that designation of critical habitat is not prudent for 2 federally endangered species (1 plant, 1 crustacean) on the island of Hawai‘i in the State of Hawaiʻi. In this proposed rule, we are exempting from critical habitat designation for Schiedea hawaiiensis, 22,730 ac of habitat on Department of Defense lands that are subject to the Pōhakuloa Training Area Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan, which provides a conservation benefit to this species. In addition, in this proposed rule, we describe exclusions totaling 4,224 ac that we are considering making at the final rule stage based on permitted and non-permitted plans and agreements.


Q: What type of comments is the Service looking for?

A: We particularly seek comments concerning information regarding our determination that designating critical habitat for the Pritchardia lanigera and Vetericaris chaceorum is not prudent. For the 12 species for which we are proposing to designate critical habitat, we particularly seek comments concerning, but not limited to: 

  • Amount and distribution of the species’ habitat.
  • Whether proposed critical habitat areas are adequate for the conservation of the species.
  • Whether any specific areas we are proposing for critical habitat designation should be considered for exclusion under section 4(b)(2) of the ESA. We particularly seek comments on the exclusion from critical habitat designation of those areas addressed by a conservation program or plan. These may include Federal, Tribal, State, county, local, or private lands with permitted conservation plans covering the species in the area, such as habitat conservation plans, safe harbor agreements, or conservation easements, or non-permitted conservation agreements and partnerships that would be encouraged by designation of or exclusion from critical habitat.


See Information Requested, in SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION in the proposed rule, for more information.


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

A: The proposed critical habitat designation is defined by the map or maps, as modified by any accompanying regulatory text, presented at the end of the proposed rule, under the Proposed Regulation Promulgation section. We include more detailed information on the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat designation in the preamble of the proposed 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.


Q: What will happen after I provide public comment?

A: Oral comments provided during the public hearing portion of the April 20, 2023, virtual public meeting, and written comments received or postmarked on or before May 30, 2023 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, will be reviewed and incorporated by the Service when finalizing the critical habitat designation final rule. Final critical habitat rules are typically made available to the public one year from publication of the proposed rule. The Service will inform the public of this process.


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