By Wendy Osher
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing the designation of critical habitat to protect some 135 plant and animal species in Maui Nui.
The proposed designation of 271,062 acres on Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i, and Kaho‘olawe, is projected to cost between $115,000 and $125,000, from 2013 to 2022.
In addition to proposing critical habitat for the first time for 50 species, the rule proposes to revise already designated critical habitat for 85 plant species that are listed as endangered or threatened.
More than half of the critical habitat is proposed on lands that are private (53%); with the remaining areas under state (36%), federal (10%), and county (1%) ownership.
Authorities say approximately 47% of the area being proposed as critical habitat is already designated as critical habitat for listed species.
An public informational meeting will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. that will include presentations about the proposed rule and the draft economic analysis followed by a question and answer period, and a 1 hour break. A public hearing will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., which will allow interested parties to provide “on the record” testimony.
Both will be held Feb. 21 at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center Multipurpose Room off of the Mokulele Highway in South Maui.
Critical habitat is a term in the Endangered Species Act that identifies geographic areas containing features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species, and which may require special management considerations or protection.
Specifying the location of habitat essential for the conservation of the species helps federal agencies identify where to utilize their authorities to benefit the species as required by the act.
Designating critical habitat also helps focus the conservation efforts of other conservation partners, such as state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals.