Maui is home to 60% of the USA’s endangered species (both plants and animals) and over one third of Hawaii’s native species are on the endangered list now. Of about 1,000 native species on the island, over 300 of them are endangered. Even more troubling is that 90% of Hawaii’s native species of plants are located nowhere else in the world. Because of this, it is critical that Maui residents do what they can to protect the land we live on and the species that live here.
A Serious Situation
Recently, 49 more Hawaiian plants and animals were added to the endangered species list where they will be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Under this Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to implement recovery plans and protect the habitats of the plants and animals. This brings the total up to 176 plants and animals in Hawaii that have protection under the Act.
The biggest threat to Maui’s native species is actually not humans or global warming, but pigs. The majority of the protected plants are located at a high elevation, free from human contact, but where the pigs can take advantage. This also poses an additional challenge, as many of these plant species only thrive at high elevations, making them almost impossible to grow and save elsewhere on the island.
What Land Owners Can Do
What’s beneficial about listing a species on the endangered species list is that landowners can work with relevant agencies and obtain funding to protect the habitat. Through programs with the Hawaii forest stewardship program, landowners can get financial assistance to help conserve or restore the property to ensure species survival. A forestry consultant will work to assist with plan development and there will also be help to:
- Prepare trees and shrubs (reduction or removal of existing vegetation, especially invasive species)
- Fence the area (to protect from animals)
- Manage nutrients to ensure successful plantings
- Establish trees and shrubs
- Establish groundcover (to prevent soil erosion, enhance the habitat for wildlife and limit invasive species growth)
- Irrigation, mulching and weed control
- Maintain a fuel break (to protect from fire)
- Windbreak (to reduce effects of wind on the growth)
- Tree and shrub pruning
- Forest health and protection
- Monitoring and maintenance
There are also a number of other organizations that provide landowner assistance in conserving native habitats. These include:
- Hawaii Forest Legacy Program
- Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
- Kaulunani: Urban Forestry Program
The Seed Conservation Laboratory is doing their part to save native Hawaiian plants, by banking seeds for preservation of genetic diversity and planting for restoration efforts.
The Hawaii Conservation Alliance works to get the support of Hawaii’s residents and visitors in the management of the native ecosystems.
Saving our native endangered species won’t come from a simple solution, but with the help of many great organizations in Maui, residents and visitors can definitely do their part.