SAVING THE ROTA BRIDLED WHITE-EYE

The Rota bridled white-eye, or nosa Luta as it’s called in its native land, is a small, forest-dwelling bird found only in Rota, an island in the western Pacific’s Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the species as endangered in January 2004 after it had been languishing on the agency’s candidate list for 20 years. By 1999, the population had dropped to just 1,000 birds — a 90-percent decrease from the 1982 population estimate of 10,000.

When it was listed under the Endangered Species Act, the Rota bridled white-eye had long been facing threats such as habitat loss and degradation. Due to its tiny population size, it was also highly susceptible to extinction from a single, random catastrophic event — yet the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to designate critical habitat. The Center was forced to go to court, and in September 2004 we reached a settlement agreement in which the Service promised to propose critical habitat by September 2005 and make a final designation by September 2006.

Happily, on September 12, 2006, the Service made good on its promise, publishing a final rule securing the Rota bridled white-eye 3,958 acres of critical habitat in Rota. In October 2007, the Service also developed a recovery plan that will go a long way toward helping the rare, beautiful bird recuperate.