Conservationists say a new proposal to reclassify the nene from endangered to threatened shows that “great strides” have been made in recovering the species, whose population dropped to 30 animals in 1960.
Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed reclassifying the nene, or Hawaiian goose, under the Endangered Species Act because it no longer is in danger of going extinct in the foreseeable future.
In addition to downlisting the nene, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes a rule that would give landowners more flexibility to manage the species on their lands and help further facilitate recovery, according to Kristi Young, deputy program manager.
The public is invited to provide feedback on the proposal through June 1. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will make a final rule in one year.
“During this time, it would be a proposed change,” Young said. “Which is basically acknowledging the great work that the partners and the public have done. Habitat protection and predator control have improved the population of the nene. This acknowledges the species is in much better shape than it was.”
The nene was declared endangered in 1967. Today, there are more than 2,800 statewide, including 1,095 on Hawaii Island.
As the population increases and the birds expand in range, they face “potential conflict with the human environment,” Young said.
Relaxing some of the prohibitions would allow some activities normally prohibited under the Endangered Species Act as long as they are consistent with conservation. One example is hazing (nonlethal intentional harassment) to move birds away from areas to reduce human-wildlife conflicts such as vehicle crashes and crop depredation.
Young said it’s the first time a species in Hawaii has been proposed for reclassification to threatened.
“To us, this is great news,” Young said. “We’re really excited about the progress the nene have made.”
“This looks like a good idea because it seems to reflect the positive success story that this bird has undergone,” added Loyal Mehrhoff, endangered species recovery director at the Center for Biological Diversity, on Monday. “A lot of people have worked on it, from private landowners to (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife, and the population has since increased to around 3,000 birds. So it’s been a good success story. It shows the Endangered Species Act can work.”
Officials at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to a nene recovery program since the 1970s, plan to review the proposal and contribute comments to the public forum, said park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane on Monday.
Email Kirsten Johnson at email@example.com.