The Center for Biological Diversity declared Wednesday its intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after the agency listed nearly 50 Hawaiian plant and animal species as endangered but then never designated the habitat needed to help those species recover.

Those 49 species, which include the band-rumped storm-petrel, the yellow-faced bee and Maui reedgrass, were listed in 2016, according to a letter from Maxx Phillips, the center’s Hawaii director and staff attorney, to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

Orangeblack Hawaiian damselflies are among the 49 local endangered species that lack the proper federally designated critical habitat to help them recover, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The nonprofit group has announced its intent to sue over the matter. DLNR

However, the Fish and Wildlife Service has “evaded” its duty to designate critical habitat areas for those Hawaii species in the six years since, even though the agency is required to do so under the Endangered Species Act, Phillips’ letter states.

Loss of habitat amid urbanization was one of the biggest factors that lead to those species being listed as endangered, according to the nonprofit group. The species also endure serious harm from invasive species. That includes ungulates – hoofed animals such as wild pigs and deer that were introduced into the islands’ fragile ecosystems.

“All of these threats are exacerbated further by climate change,” Phillips’ letter Wednesday added.

The center has previously sued the federal agency along similar grounds to spur action. In 2019 it sued Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to designate habitat specifically for the ‘i‘iwi – the iconic Hawaiian honeycreeper, known for its distinct red plumage, that now faces extinction.

In that case, the parties reached a settlement in which the feds agreed to put forth a critical habitat area for the bird by December 2022.

Hawaii is home to hundreds of varieties of threatened plants and animals and often called the endangered species capital of the world. Nine local species were declared extinct in 2021.

Read the Center for Biological Diversity’s letter here.

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author