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.

Scientific integrity is central to the mission and vision of SCBNA, and efforts by the Trump administration to undermine the integrity of science around the Covid 19 pandemic has prompted members of Congress and the Biden administration to take much-needed action on this issue. In March, SCB North America and fourteen other organizations signed a letter urging the House Science, Space and Technology Committee to support the Scientific Integrity Act. Reintroduced in February 2021, the Act would ensure scientists can carry out their research—and communicate it with the public—without fear of political pressure or retaliation. The Act requires that scientific conclusions are independent of political considerations or ideology. In addition, it would prohibit political appointees from manipulating scientific findings, or impeding the release and communication of those findings to the public through scientific journals or the media. Open The Government led the effort to bring the letter before the House committee, working alongside a coalition of science, conservation, research and accountability organizations.

Since taking office in January, President Biden has signaled a shift in federal government policy, creating a plan to strengthen scientific integrity and releasing an executive order to support science in policy-making (see this and other Executive Actions supported by SCB North America here). Action from Congress in passing the Scientific Integrity Act would establish a number of essential protections and policies that would stay in place through shifting presidential administrations and political appointees. SCB North America is encouraged by the re-emergence of scientific integrity as a high priority under the new administration and Congress, and looks forward to continuing to prioritize this issue through its policy program. 

Through the work of its policy committee and members, SCB North America has long supported efforts to strengthen scientific integrity to ensure that the best available science is used to inform conservation actions and policies. The SCB North America Policy program (SNAP) focuses on this work, making progress through advocacy, policy recommendations, and fostering international communication by scientists. This work promotes biodiversity by making sure that conservation laws, from environmental impact assessments to forest and marine resource management, are implemented using the best possible science. 

Download and read the full letter to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee here.

Advancing Our Policy Declarations

Looking forward, the Policy Committee is excited to further advance our Policy Declarations, including the 2020 declaration dedicated to Advancing Ecological Connectivity Implementation in the Rocky Mountains and North America and our 2018 declaration to Support Conserving and Recovering the Monarch Butterfly. The lengthy Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad articulates a multi-faceted framework for proactively addressing climate change, including a goal of “conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.” For example, connectivity within and across conservation lands is key for protecting biodiversity and ecologically healthy landscapes. The North American SCB Policy Committee will highlight these declarations for key leaders in the new administration and identify additional ways that the North American Section can meaningfully contribute to the exciting new agenda.

Biden/Harris Executive Action Alignment with SCBNA Priorities

Given our mission to build an equitable and diverse community to advance the science and practice of conserving the Earth’s biological diversity and people’s place within it, the North American Section of the Society for Conservation Biology has renewed optimism about the opportunities emerging with the new federal leadership in the United States. As articulated in our vision, “we conceive of SCBNA as a diverse community of conservation professionals, practitioners, and stakeholders, and a leading scientific voice for the study and conservation of Earth’s biological diversity.”

Since January 20th, the Biden-Harris Administration has issued over fifty executive actions directed at addressing the coronavirus pandemic, restoring lost ground since 2016, and addressing equity, immigration and the environment. With the promise of renewed commitment to both stewardship of the environment and to do so equitably and inclusively, our Policy Committee is embarking on a new collaboration with our Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Committee to inventory the Biden Administration Executive Orders and Memoranda for relevance, alignment and convergence with our mission and vision. For example, the top initiatives of the Policy Committee already include climate change adaptationendangered speciesscientific integrity and environmental justice, all of which are mentioned explicitly in Executive Orders (EO’s) signed to date.

Likewise, SCBNA’s Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Committee works to advance these tenets in the field of conservation across all levels, including the public, students, professionals, and leaders in the field. The Biden Administration’s emphasis on environmental justicesocial justicedecolonization of conservationdiversity and inclusion, and their integration across all areas of government, has inspired SCBNA and our Committees to seek meaningful ways to work collectively on these important and timely priorities. As a first step, we have completed an initial inventory of the Presidential EO’s against the mission and vision of the North American section of SCB and created a brief checklist highlighting areas of alignment (image in left column). Several of the Executive Actions by the Biden Administration also underscore opportunities for enhanced cooperation and collaboration between the US and Canada to amplify outcomes for conservation, climate change and environmental justice, across our shared North American landscape (right column of image).

The North America Society for Conservation Biology is appalled by the invasion of the Capitol building by white nationalists. We are equally appalled by the clear difference in police response in which white supremacists violently breaking into federal buildings are met with very little resistance and people of color protesting peacefully or simply walking in a national park are met with militarized police violence and brutality, in many cases resulting in their death.  We recognize that many of our members know all too well these harsh realities of institutionalized racism in their professional and personal lives and that all of us live within human and natural communities that are negatively impacted by how marginalized peoples are systemically oppressed.  We also recognize that these vital issues are inseparable from who we are, how we do our work, and the fate of biodiversity.  

The board of SCBNA reaffirms our commitment to continuing to work to address systemic racism and biased power structures in our own organization and within conservation biology, be it in our academic institutions, organizations, research projects, foundations or communities we work within.  We also commit to using our unique voice to call on the new administration to make addressing institutionalized racism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination an immediate priority.

*Statement authored by SCBNA Board Member Dr. Jessa Madosky, Past-President

Signed,

The Board of Directors of the Society for Conservation Biology North America

Karen Root, President
Rebecca McCaffery, President-Elect
Jessa Madosky, Past-President
Gerald Singh, Equity, Inclusion & Diversity Officer
Rebecca Hufft, Treasurer
Alysha Cypher, Secretary & Chapters Representative
Jessica Pratt, Vice President for Education & Chapters
Erin Sexton, Vice President for Policy & Programs
Melissa Cronin, Student Representative
Lauren Jonaitis, Member at Large
Paige Olmsted, Member at Large

On June 12, The Society for Conservation Biology North America submitted a joint comment letter with the American Society of Mammologists (ASM) to the US Fish and Wildlife Service as that agency prepares court-ordered revisions to its rule governing management of the endangered Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), which occurs in northern Mexico and the southwestern US. In the comments, SCBNA and ASM explained why the rule revision must take a fresh look at best available science regarding what steps are necessary for recovery of the Mexican wolf, rather than relying on a flawed 2017 recovery plan whose conclusions were distorted due to political pressure from some southwestern states.

The major issues that SCBNA and ASM identified in the recovery plan include 1) arbitrarily high thresholds for acceptable extinction risk, 2) lack of objective and measurable recovery criteria regarding threats from illegal killing and other anthropogenic mortality, 3) lack of objective and measurable recovery criteria regarding genetic threats, and 4) arbitrary limits on the geographic extent of recovery.

Read the full comment letter here.