For Immediate Release, September 26, 2011
||David Henkin, Earthjustice, (808) 599-2436
Maka‘ala Ka‘aumoana, Hui Ho‘omalu i Ka ‘Äina, (808) 346-5458
Marjorie Ziegler, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, (808) 593-0255
Peter Galvin, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 986-2600
Robert Johns, American Bird Conservancy, (202) 234-7181
Actions to Protect Kauai’s Imperiled Seabirds Finally Under Way
Conservation Groups Achieve Goals to Reduce Utility-related Seabird Deaths, Injuries
Lïhu‘e, Hawaii— Conservation groups that have worked for years to pressure the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative to comply with the Endangered Species Act dismissed their federal lawsuit today. The move came after the groups secured vital, on-the-ground measures to reduce the number of imperiled seabirds the utility kills and injures each year.
“We went to court because KIUC refused to take responsibility for killing and injuring nearly 200 Newell’s shearwaters each year, threatening this native seabird with extinction,” said Maka‘ala Ka‘aumoana of Hui Ho‘omalu I Ka ‘Äina. “Now that the utility is finally taking necessary steps to help the birds, we’ve accomplished what we set out to do.”
Nearly all of the world’s Newell’s shearwaters (also known by the Hawaiian name ‘a‘o) nest on Kauai. From 1993 to 2008, the Kauai population of shearwaters declined by 75 percent, in large part due to birds striking power lines and becoming disoriented from the utility’s streetlights while flying at night.
In March 2010, Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of Hui Ho‘omalu I Ka ‘Äina, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, the Center for Biological Diversity and American Bird Conservancy to compel KIUC to comply with the Endangered Species Act by lowering power lines in major flyways that are responsible for the bulk of shearwater deaths and by protecting nesting colonies from predators to offset unavoidable harm. Under pressure from the litigation, the utility finally secured an incidental take permit under the Act in May 2011 and is now implementing critical measures to protect these imperiled seabirds.
“For almost a decade, we urged KIUC to lower its power lines, but the utility refused, even though it admitted the lines are a major cause of shearwater deaths,” said Marjorie Ziegler of Conservation Council for Hawai‘i. “Now the worst offenders will be coming down, giving hope that shearwaters will be around for future generations to enjoy.”
“To withstand the annual toll taken by KIUC’s operations, the Newell’s shearwater population on Kauai needs safe places to raise healthy chicks,” said George Wallace of American Bird Conservancy. “That’s why we fought so hard to make sure KIUC contributes its fair share to protect nesting colonies from non-native predators such as rats, cats and owls.”
KIUC’s Endangered Species Act permit requires it to contribute nearly $400,000 per year to protect shearwater colonies on Kauai’s north shore.
“Getting KIUC to commit to taking vital steps to protect Newell’s shearwaters is a significant step in the right direction, but actions speak louder than words,” said Peter Galvin of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re going to keep close tabs on KIUC to make sure it lives up to its promises.”
“The federal permit KIUC got in May is only a stopgap measure, lasting at most a few years,” said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. “We remain actively involved in the permitting process to ensure that Kauai’s imperiled seabirds get the long-term protection they need to recover from decades of reckless behavior by the utility.”
Earthjustice is a nonprofit, public-interest, environmental law firm. The Mid-Pacific office opened in Honolulu in 1988 as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, and has represented dozens of environmental, native Hawaiian, and community organizations. Earthjustice is the only non-profit environmental law firm in Hawai‘i and the Mid-Pacific, and does not charge clients for its services. For more information, visit www.earthjustice.org
Hui Ho‘omalu i Ka ‘Äina is a "taro roots" community-based organization founded by cultural practitioners in 1983 to restore, protect and preserve Kaua'i’s natural and cultural resources.
Conservation Council for Hawai‘i is a Hawai‘i-based, non-profit environmental organization with over 5,500 members dedicated to protecting native Hawaiian species and ecosystems for future generations. CCH is 60 years old in 2010. For more information, visit www.conservehi.org
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. For more information, visit www.biologicaldiversity.org
American Bird Conservancy conserves native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by safeguarding the rarest species, protecting and restoring habitats, and reducing threats while building capacity in the bird conservation movement. For more information, visit, www.abcbirds.org