Monday, August 4, 2008

Hawaiian endangered birds stunningly underfunded

Imagine coming upon a group of islands where birds were everywhere.

Where multicolored species fluttered like gems in the trees, plumed in greens and reds, oranges and yellows, blacks and tans.

(Image: Sheryl Ives Boynton painting of the golden Kaua'i forest bird the nukupu'u, a honeycreeper that is listed endangered and is probably now extinct. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.)

Where quick dark rails sped through the undergrowth and huge flightless ducks waddled across the grasslands.

And now, imagine that avian diversity fast disappearing, and society not recognizing what it was losing.

A new study suggests that the United States is spending a fraction on Hawai'i's remaining endangered bird population of what it spends on Mainland birds.

A really small fraction.

David Leonard of the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife wrote the study in the journal Biological Conservation. It is entitled “Recovery expenditures for birds listed under the US Endangered Species Act: The disparity between mainland and Hawaiian taxa.”

Its point is clear.

Hawaiian birds represent one-third of the nation's endangered birds, and they get just 4.1 percent of the funding for recovery.

The actual numbers, as reported by Leonard: There are 95 birds on the list, and 31 of them are Hawaiian. From 1996 to 2004, the nation spent $753 million on recovery for its at-risk birds, and $31 million was spent in Hawai'i.

What is means is simple, Leonard says:

“Because of the status of many Hawaiian birds and the threats facing them, current recovery expenditures are inadequate to prevent additional extinctions.”

It is no consolation that this won't be a new thing to Hawai'i.

That group of islands mentioned at the top of this piece is Hawai'i. And already, extinction has removed more than half the bird species that once existed here, including the rails, the flightless species, and many of the fluttering gems of the treetops.

© 2008 Jan TenBruggencate

1 comment:

Rob Pacheco said...

It's time the State and the Feds realize that Hawaii's native ecosystems are our most valuable asset. And just as the natural history of Hawaii is a showcase to the world, our resource management should also be world-class. It's time that hundreds of millions of dollars come to Hawaii to "invest" in our resources. We need an initiative for Hawaii Nei to make resource management and research a primary economic driver for the State. We could be an exporter of knowledge, techniques, and strategies for threatened and imperiled ecosystems world-wide.