Honolulu: Wildlife officials lauded Washington`s "holistic approach" to conservation in Hawaii after the Obama administration declared 48 species as endangered and announced plans to set aside more than 40 square miles on Kauai as critical habitat to allow the plants and animals to flourish.
Two Honeycreeper birds, a fly and 45 ferns, trees and shrubs found only on the island of Kauai were among the species named Wednesday, boosting the number of such classifications by the Obama administration from two to 50.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the government would also be declaring more than 40 square miles on Kauai as critical habitat, a move that would help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopt a new approach to protecting imperiled species by restoring health to the broad ecosystems they inhabit.
"This is more of holistic approach," said Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Ken Foote.
Previously, the service tried to protect endangered species by adopting separate plans to revive their respective habitats. This led to disjointed and overlapping efforts, particularly in Hawaii, which has more endangered species than any other state.
Suzanne Case, Hawaii executive director for The Nature Conservancy, commended the ecosystem approach, saying it would enable officials to focus on battling large scale threats like weeds and feral pigs.
The Interior Department announced preliminary plans in October 2008 to list the 48 species and establish critical habitat for them. In the interim, it collected public comment and prepared to make the rule final.
The Center for Biological Diversity called the classification long overdue, noting some of the species have been candidates for listing for more than 20 years. The Tucson, Ariz.-based environmentalist group filed a petition to list the 48 Kauai species in 2004 and then followed with a lawsuit two years later.