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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to hold public hearing

By Staff | Feb 21, 2013

A tree in the asparagus family, Pleomele fernaldii (hala pepe) is found only on the island of Lanai. Photo by Hank Oppenheimer, Plant Extinction Prevention Program.

KIHEI – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released an analysis that estimates costs related to the proposed critical habitat for 135 species on the islands of Maui County at $115,000 to $125,000 between the years 2013-22.

In June 2012, the service released its proposal to list 40 species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and designate 271,062 acres of critical habitat, including lands in West Maui, for 135 Maui Nui species.

Critical habitat is newly proposed for 50 plant and animal species, and revision to existing critical habitat is proposed for 85 listed species.

The service will hold a public informational meeting followed by a public hearing on Thursday, Feb. 21, at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center at Milepost 6 on Mokulele Highway. For directions, call 875-1582.

The informational meeting will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. After an hour break, the public hearing will be held from 6 to 8 p.m.

Members of the public can ask questions and discuss the proposed critical habitat with service staff at the informational meeting.

Official oral testimony will be accepted at the public hearing. Both oral and written comments will carry equal weight.

The initial comment period on the proposed rule closed on Sept. 10, 2012. The service is reopening the comment period to allow all interested parties an opportunity to comment simultaneously on the proposed rule, the associated Draft Economic Analysis and the amended required determinations section.

Comments previously submitted on this rulemaking need not be resubmitted.

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.

Areas designated as critical habitat for the 135 species total 271,062 acres and include occupied and unoccupied habitat.

Most of the proposed critical habitat occurs on lands that are private (53 percent), with the remaining areas under state (36 percent), federal (10 percent) and county (1 percent) ownership.

Approximately 47 percent of the area being proposed as critical habitat is already designated for listed species.

In the proposed rule, the service is considering excluding from the final designation approximately 40,973 acres of private lands that have a perpetual conservation easement, voluntary conservation agreement, conservation or watershed preserve designation or similar conservation protection.

The draft economic analysis provides estimated costs of the foreseeable potential economic impacts of the proposed critical habitat designation or revision for the 135 Maui Nui species over the next ten years.

Copies of the proposed rule and economic analysis may be downloaded at www.fws.gov/pacificislands/.

For a complete list of the proposed species, visit www.fws.gov/pacificislands/.