Federal agency proposes 275,000 acres in Hawaiʻi as critical habitat for ʻiʻiwi
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing approximately 275,647 acres of land in Hawaiʻi as critical habitat for ʻiʻiwi, also known as scarlet honeycreeper, which is a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The proposed federal, state and private lands are on the Big Island Maui and Kauaʻi.
The designation of critical habitat will help focus federal, state and local conservation efforts to manage and protect ʻiʻiwi (Drepanis coccinea). The wildlife service will hold a virtual public information meeting and hearing on the proposed critical habitat designation.
Mosquito-borne diseases such as avian malaria and avian pox remain the biggest threats to ʻiʻiwi and are primary drivers of declining ‘i‘iwi abundance and distribution over the last century. The effects of climate change are warming temperatures in high-elevation forest areas, allowing mosquitoes carrying avian diseases to move into areas that were once considered sanctuaries for these birds.
Additional stressors include threats to their native host trees ‘ōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) including dieback, rust and rapid ‘ōhiʻa death, a fatal fungal disease that has significantly impacted ‘ōhiʻa populations.
Drought, fire, volcanic eruptions, nonnative plants, feral ungulates, introduced mammals, competition from nonnative birds and ectoparasites are additional threats to the species.
“Designating critical habitat is an important step towards saving ʻiʻiwi,” said Lasha-Lynn Salbosa with the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office. “Mosquito-borne diseases like avian malaria remain the biggest threat to ʻiʻiwi and other native forest birds. Designation of critical habitat will allow greater access to tools for our federal, state and other partners to manage and protect these species.”
The ʻiʻiwi is found only in Hawaiʻi, specifically on Maui, Kauaʻi and the Big Island, although small numbers of individuals may still be found on Oʻahu and Molokaʻi.
Medium in size, ʻiʻiwi have scarlet feathers, black wings and a long, curved, bright orange beak. Once found in most elevations of Hawaiʻi, today they are found only in higher elevations, closed canopy forests with native ‘ōhi‘a and koa (Acacia koa) trees, and they build nests primarily in ‘ōhi‘a where they feed mostly on the nectar of the ‘ōhi‘a blossoms.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service will hold one virtual public scoping meeting during the scoping period on:
- Feb. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m.
- To register for the virtual public scoping meeting, visit the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office website: https://www.fws.gov/project/iiwi-critical-habitat
This proposed rule will be available for public comment for 60 days. An electronic copy of the document is available on our website.
The public can submit written comments at https://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2022-0144.
The public also can submit written comments and materials through the mail, postmarked by Feb. 27, 2023: Public Comments Processing; Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2022-0144, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.
Comments should be submitted only by the methods described above. If your submission is made via a hardcopy that includes personal identifying information, you can request at the top of your document that this information be held from public review. However, there is no guarantee that it will be done.
All submissions are posted on http://www.regulations.gov. Comments and materials received, as well as supporting documentation used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov.
For further information contact: Lasha-Lynn Salbosa, Classification Team Manager, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, by email at [email protected]. To learn more about the proposed critical habitat for ʻiʻiwi, visit https://www.fws.gov/project/iiwi-critical-habitat.