Hawaii’s native species need protection: A case for expanding the State Endangered Species List

Members of the policy committee of the Hawai’i Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology (HISCB) have submitted a policy statement on behalf of HISCB and the Society for Conservation Biology Oceania section regarding the listing of at-risk Hawaiian terrestrial flora and fauna species under the State Endangered Species Statute, HRS 195D, to prevent further decline or extinction.

Despite its relatively small landmass (less than 0.2% of total US landmass), Hawai’i has been called the endangered species capital of the world; it is home to more than 500 of the 1,600 species listed as endangered or threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. However, Hawai’i receives only 8-10% of federal funding appropriated for the recovery of endangered or threatened species. Furthermore, the federal Endangered Species Act has been weakened by recent amendments and revisions made during the Trump Administration. With decreased protections for vulnerable species at the federal level, HISCB asserts that now is the time for state governments to strengthen their protections. 

Hawai’i has its own endangered species list under the State Endangered Species Statute, HRS 195D, to which any federally listed endangered or threatened species are automatically added. While many states add additional species to their own lists, Hawai’i has added only two species beyond those federally listed. According to nationally- or internationally-based conservation organizations, as of April 2020 there are over 600 additional Hawaiian species that are not listed but are considered endangered or imperiled. Listing species at highest risk under the State ESA, HRS 195D, would raise the profile of these overlooked species and promote their protection.

In its policy statement, HISCB has proposed three clear priorities that can be viewed as first steps to enhance the protection of Hawaiʻi’s unique biodiversity:

  1. Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the State agency that is charged with overseeing the State Endangered Species List, initiates the State listing process for at-risk Hawaiian flora and fauna species under the State Endangered Species Statute, HRS 195D, to prevent further decline or extinction,
  2. DLNR convenes workshops and other collaborative activities with relevant biologists to further evaluate the classifications of NatureServe and IUCN or other relevant analyses of Hawaiʻi species and consider them for state listing, and 
  3. Identify and engage interested individuals and organizations to petition the State for species’ listings in lieu of action by DLNR through the described process above.

Read the full statement here.