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What We Do: Defending Wildlife

Defending Wildlife Goal: Defend laws and programs that protect native species and habitats in Hawai‘i

  • Increase public and political support for species recovery actions and habitat restoration
  • Enforce the Endangered Species Act and other laws to protect native Hawaiian species and habitats

Conservation Council for Hawai‘i has been at the forefront of major campaigns to help recover imperiled Hawaiian plants and animals on the brink of extinction. We were lead plaintiff in three successful lawsuits under the federal Endangered Species Act to obtain the listing of over 250 Hawaiian plants and animals as threatened or endangered species and designation of their critical habitat for recovery. The national recognition of Hawai‘i's extinction and endangered species crisis has resulted in significant increases in funding and staff to help these imperiled species.

We were one of the lead organizations on the E Ho‘omau! Campaign to perpetuate our cultural and natural heritage by securing permanent adequate funding for the State Natural Area Reserves System (NARS), a program to protect over 19 reserves around the state supporting rare and endangered Hawaiian plants and animals, cultural sites, and geologic features. The reserves are the State’s highest level of land protection, in theory, but in reality, the NARS had not received the funding required to control invasive species, replant rare and endangered species, and protect birds and other animals from predators. In 2005, the NARS was finally identified as a program to receive a portion of dedicated funding generated from land conveyance fees.

We filed court documents to protect pupping and resting habitat for the endangered ‘īlioholoikauaua (Hawaiian monk seal), and joined efforts with others to step up recovery actions for this critically endangered marine mammal. We have recently stepped up our advocacy for the monk seal by offering rewards for the intentional killing of four seals in 2011 and 2012, and by supporting expanded critical habitat on the main Hawaiian islands, and by supporting full funding for recovery actions, such as the translocation of female pups to the main islands for 3 years to increase their long-term chances for survival.

We are raising awareness about the endangered palila bird on Mauna Kea, threatened by mouflon, feral sheep, and feral goats maintained in the critical habitat for public hunting in violation of three federal court orders. We are calling on investigations and audits of the rogue WESPAC (Western Pacific Fishery Management Council), which puts fisheries and entire marine ecosystems at risk by promoting large commercial fishing above all else. As part of our Manu Kai (Seabird) Campaign, we are raising awareness about Hawai‘i’s seabirds and the many threats they face, and calling attention to the military’s use of Ka‘ula Islet (southwest of Ni‘ihau and Kaua‘i) as a target for bombing and strafing. Ka’ula supports hundreds of nesting seabirds and sea turtles, and the Hawaiian monk seal. This high-elevation habitat must be managed for native species, especially given climate change, sea level rise, and the need for additional habitat for coastal and marine species.

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