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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Declaring 48 Hawaiian species endangered

HONOLULU - The federal government took a new, ecosystem-based approach to the endangered species list on Tuesday, proposing an all-at-once addition of 48 species, including plants, two birds and a fly, that live only on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

The action by the Interior Department would designate about 43 square miles as critical habitat for all the species rather than considering each species' habitat separately, which has been the practice for three decades. Officials said considering the species all at once should save time and resources and would help the whole ecosystem.

The same approach is planned to help protect rare species on Oahu, the Big Island and Maui over the next several years, and it could be considered for the Arctic, big river systems of the Southwest and areas of the mountain West, according to department officials.

"For more than three decades, we've been struggling with one species at a time," said Dale Hall, Fish and Wildlife Service director, in a conference call with news media. "This gives us a chance to look at groups of species and at the same time be economical in the way we designate critical habitat."

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, in Honolulu for an island health conference, said the new "holistic approach" will benefit not only the listed species but also the rest of the ecosystem.

"By addressing the common threats that occur across these ecosystems, we can more effectively focus our conservation efforts on restoring the functions of these shared habitats," Kempthorne said.

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The painting is by Nancy Merkle

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