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38 Hawaii plants, snails gain federal protection

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:43 p.m. HST, May 24, 2013

Thirty-five plants and three snails found on Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Kahoolawe are getting endangered species status, an environmental group announced today. 

The Center for Biological Diversity said the protections are the result of a 2011 settlement it reached with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The settlement expedites protection decisions for hundreds of the most threatened species around the country.

For some of the Hawaii plants, only a few remain. They include the hala pepe, popolo, kookoolau, awikiwiki and haha nui. The three mollusks protected are two species of Lanai tree snails and the Newcomb’s tree snail.

The species are threatened by nonnative animals such as feral pigs, goats, rats and axis deer. They also face weather hazards. Hurricanes pose threats for all three snail species. 

“Endangered Species Act protection will give these extraordinary plants and snails a real shot at survival,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist with the center.

The center and other environmental groups are urging the federal agency to finalize a proposal designating critical habitat for 135 species on the same islands where the 38 newly protected species are found.  

The ideas are part of a holistic approach to protecting imperiled plants and animals by restoring health to the broader ecosystems they inhabit. 

Previously, the Fish And Wildlife 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 many endangered species. 

A Lanai plant is being delisted. New information shows the plant, Gahnia lanaiensis, is synonymous with G. lacera, a widespread species from New Zealand, the Fish And Wildlife Service said. The plant is not in danger of extinction or likely to become an endangered species. 

The ruling will be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday.

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