The US Fish and Wildlife Service is reopening the public comment period on the published proposed rule to reclassify the aeʻo (Hawiian stilt) from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The reopening of comment period gives the public an additional 30 days to comment on the proposed rule, from until July 23, 2021. There will be a virtual public meeting for the public to ask questions about the rule and provide comments on July 7 at 5 p.m. HST.
“The proposal to downlist the aeʻo is based on the best available scientific information, a thorough analysis of threats and how they have been alleviated, and the ongoing commitment and proven track record of partners to continue managing for healthy aeʻo populations,” according to the USFWS. The Service’s final determination will take into consideration all comments and any additional information received during the comment period.
The ESA defines endangered as a species that is currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range and threatened as likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. Agency leaders say the proposed downlisting of the aeʻo “is an example of the power of conservation partnerships between federal, state and private stakeholders under the ESA.”
According to the USFWS, a strong network of conservation actions throughout Hawaiʻi over the past three decades has resulted in more wetland areas being managed compatible with the species’ needs. “The State of Hawaiʻi has been a key partner, along with efforts on National Wildlife Refuges, to protect, manage, and conserve the significant wetland habitats and supporting aeʻo populations over the last 30 years,” according to information compiled by the USFWS.
Aeʻo continue to be threatened by nonnative animal predation (e.g., mongooses, cats, and rats), habitat loss and modification due to human activities, type C botulism, and effects due to climate change. Survey data and a recent population viability analysis indicate that the aeʻo population has been stable to increasing for several decades in the eight islands where it exists. The USFWS says stable population trends are expected to continue into the foreseeable future, as long as the Service and State of Hawaiʻi continue current management practices, such as: predator control, vegetation management, and water level control.
While the current threats will continue into the foreseeable future, the Service has determined that the imminence, severity, and magnitude of ongoing threats do not indicate the aeʻo is presently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
The proposed downlisting of the aeʻo includes a proposed 4(d) rule that facilitates conservation and management of aeʻo where they currently occur and may occur in the future through increased flexibility by removing the Federal take prohibition under certain conditions. These flexibilities are aimed at encouraging support for habitat management and providing federal and non-federal entities with a way to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.
Comments already submitted need not be resubmitted, as they will be fully considered in preparation of the final rule. Instructions on how to submit comments are provided at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-R1-ES-2020-0079.
The proposed rule, comments and materials received, as well as supporting documentation, are available for public inspection on the docket.
For more information on how to attend the virtual public meeting, please visit the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office website.