Maui News

Critical habitat proposed for 12 endangered species, all on Hawai’i Island

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Bidens campylotheca ssp. waihoiensis (koʻokoʻolau) (left); and Cyanea duvalliorum (hāhā ) (right). File photos by Hank Oppenheimer, PEPP

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing critical habitat for 12 species, all found only on Hawaiʻi island. The Service has also determined that critical habitat was not prudent for two additional species. All 14 species are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Approximately 122,277 acres of federal, state, private, and public lands are being proposed as critical habitat for 12 species, meaning these areas have been identified as essential for the conservation of one or more of the species for which critical habitat is being proposed.

Designating critical habitat for the loulu palm (Pritchardia lanigera) and ʻopāe pond shrimp (Vetericaris chaceorum) is considered not prudent due to concerns of potential overharvesting in the wild. The Service will hold a virtual public informational meeting and hearing on the proposal in March 2023.

Of the 14 species addressed in the proposal, 12 are plants, one is a picture-wing fly, and one is a shrimp that lives in anchialine pools (enclosed water bodies or pools with an underground connection to the ocean).


The proposed critical habitat occurs across five ecosystems on the island of Hawaiʻi: mesic forest, mesic grasslands and shrublands, wet forest, wet grasslands and shrublands, coastal, and dry forest. Each species faces threats of habitat loss and degradation by introduced ungulates, fire, drought, as well as habitat-modifying invasive plants and predation fromnon-native insects.

“We grouped these 12 species in this proposed designation based on their interconnectedness and reliance on ecosystems found only on the island of Hawaiʻi,” said Lasha-Lynn Salbosa, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office listing and classification manager in an agency news release.

The following is a short description of each species.

  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. Cyrtandra nanawaleensis (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. 

Critical habitat is a tool that supports the continued conservation of imperiled species by guiding cooperation within the federal government. Identifying critical habitat also informs landowners and the public which specific areas are important to a species’ conservation and recovery. 


The Service can also make the determination to not designate critical habitat when a designation would likely increase the threat of collection, vandalism, or incidental habitat degradation by curiosity seekers.

This announcement comes as the ESA turns 50 years old and is the most significant piece of endangered species legislation and is considered one of the world’s most important conservation laws.

When Congress passed the ESA in 1973, it recognized that our rich natural heritage is of “esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value to our Nation and its people.”

Currently, the ESA protects 1,662 U.S. species and 638 foreign species. With ongoing threats such as habitat loss and new threats like climate change, a commitment to species conservation and the ESA continues to be vital. In every state across the country, there is staff working to conserve endangered species and the habitat they depend on.


The Service will hold one virtual public infomational meeting and public hearing: April 20, 2023, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. HST.

The proposed rule will be available for public comment for 60 days. An electronic copy of the document is available at the Federal Register: Docket# FWS-R1-ES-2023-0017

The public may submit comments by one of the following methods:

  • Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: In the Search box, enter FWS-R1-ES-2023-0017, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click on the Search button. On the resulting page, in the 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.” 
  • By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2023-0017, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.

If a submission is made via a hardcopy that includes personal identifying information, individuals may request at the top of the document that this information be withheld from public review. However, the Agency cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so. All submissions will be posed on Comments and materials received, as well as supporting documentation used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on

To be considered, comments must be received on or before May 30, 2023.


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