Bush Admin spins its move to protect 48 Hawaiian species


Hawaii has been called the "endangered species capital of the United States," with more species at risk of extinction (or already believed to be extinct) than anywhere else in the country.

For years now, conservation groups have been urging (and suing) the Bush Administration to protect the most endangered species in Hawaii, many of which have less than 50 individuals in existence.

Yesterday, the Interior Department finally responded, saying it will propose adding 48 Hawaiian species to the Endangered Species List. The species include 45 plants, two birds and one insect.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne called this a "holistic" and "ecosystem-based" approach, which really means that they are just lumping all 48 species into one proposed protected habitat just 43 square miles in size. (And it should be noted that nearly 95% of that land is already protected habitat for other endangered species.)

Despite criticism, this isn't necessarily a bad approach. As the AP reports: "For more than three decades, we've been struggling with one species at a time," said Dale Hall, Fish and Wildlife Service director, in a conference call with news media. "This gives us a chance to look at groups of species and at the same time be economical in the way we designate critical habitat."

The approach is also nothing new. As the Center for Biological Diversity points out, "it was the Clinton administration that developed and implemented an ecosystem-based approach to species conservation -- an approach that the Bush administration all but disregarded."

It will still take a "year-long study" to actually add these species to the Endangered Species List, meaning any action will be well after the Bush Administration leaves office (and maybe after they gut the Endangered Species Act as they head out the door).

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