SC Comments on Maui Endangered Species Listing

RE: Updated information on locations of ‘awikiwiki (Canavalia pubescens) to consider as part of listing 38 Species on Molokai, Lanai, and Maui as Endangered, Final Rule; and designation of Critical Habitat.

Aloha Dr. Mehrhoff and USFWS Staff

We wish to express our gratitude to you and your staff that 38 proposed species of endemic plants and animals on Maui, Moloka’i, and Lana’i have at last been listed.

We were disappointed, however, to find the following language relating to Canavalia pubescens included in the final published listing notice (p. 35) sent to the Federal Register:

At present, the only known occurrence is on east Maui, from Puu o Kali south to Pohakea, in the lowland dry ecosystem (Starr 2006, in litt.; Altenburg 2007, pp. 12–13; Oppenheimer 2006a, in litt.; 2007a, in litt.; Greenlee 2013, in litt.). All plants of this species that formerly were found in the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve on Maui were destroyed by feral goats (Capra hircus) by the end of 2010 (Fell-McDonald 2010, in litt.). In addition, although approximately 20 individuals of Canavalia pubescens were reported from the Palauea- Keahou area as recently as 2010 (Altenberg 2010, in litt.), no individuals have been found in site visits to this area over the last 2 years (Greenlee 2013, in litt.). Greenlee (2013, in litt.) reports that these plants may have succumbed to prolonged drought.

The listing published May 28, 2013 purports that

1. ‘Awikiwiki was once known at the ‘Ahihi-Kinau exclosure. but has since been destroyed by goats, and has not reappeared.

  1. Awikiwiki once existed in the Palauea-Keauhou area (Honua’ula Project area) but has not been seen since 2010 and may have succumbed to prolonged drought.

The verified and updated facts are:

1. Several ‘awikiwiki plants have reappeared in the ‘Ahihi-Kinau exclosure and were documented this month (May 2013) during a Native Hawaiian Plant Society visit. A Sierra Club hiking group photographed the same location in January, 2013, and dead vines but no sprouts were observed. This supports the need to continue protection of areas where Canavalia seed banks exist, since they are able to respond to rainfall events and regenerate the species.

  1. Awikiwiki was documented in 4 locations in Palauea-Keauhou (Honua’ula project area- Lowland Dry Unit 3) )in February and July of 2011. Two plant separate clusters were viewed during each month (4 total) and all were in locations not included in the SWCA 2008 survey. Several of of these locations (near CPU29F and north of CPU6701) appear to be outside the proposed 40 acre “preserve” but within the 130-acre protection area proposed under rezoning condition 27 and the 170-acre proposed critical habitat area. One plant cluster had a large, visible seed bank. Pictures and GPS locations of these plants and the dates observed were passed on to USFWS staff by Dr. Altenberg. The statement that ‘awikiwiki plants on the site had been reported as late as 2010, should have read, “as late as July 2011.”
  2. What is more, cultural practitioners have stated that ‘awikiwiki is a plant that can withstand drought, if it has sufficient natural habitat to regenerate when the rains return. The continual renewal of the populations of plants at the Palauea-Keauhou (Honua’ula) site at a variety of locations over the last eight years supports this traditional knowledge. While the plants are unlikely to be found during extreme drought conditions, they will return once the rains come, where there are established seed banks and favorable habitat conditions. The lands of Palauea-Keauhou (Honua’ula) provide a favorable habitat for Canavalia to establish both seed banks and populations, especially if axis deer can be controlled on the site.
  3. Awikiwiki was documented in Palauea-Keauhou (Honua’ula) in April of 2013 in the form of a recently deceased ‘awikiwiki plant with seed pods still attached and a large scattering of ‘awikiwiki seeds. This appears to be on the northern edge of the proposed preserve area at CPU670-1 and may actually be outside it. This plant, which spread over a considerable area, is likely to have been viable in 2012 or early 2013.
  4. Awikiwiki was recently documented in Palauea-Keauhou (Honua’ula) (late May 2013) in the form of several ‘awikwiki seedings that had sprouted in the location of a formerly live plant (CPU670-2) that had been previously recorded by citizen scientists, but not by SWCA.

Based upon these current observations, it appears that it would not be accurate to conclude that: “these plants may have succumbed to prolonged drought.” since it appears that it is the natural cycle of the plant to have mature individuals die back during drought and new offspring replace them after storm events.

In conclusion, we ask that the Service take into account the updated information that has been documented by citizen scientists during the completion of the Critical Habitat designation process. It is also likely that more recruitment of ‘awikiwiki is occurring on the Honua’ula site at additional locations with each rainfall event. Attached is Dr. Alenburg’s map to help identify recent locations of plant recruitment.


Map Showing  'awikiwiki (click to enlarge)
Map Showing ‘awikiwiki (click to enlarge)

The critical habitat area should be designated for the entire 170 acres proposed and the HCP should also be expanded to reflect the fact that Canavalia seed banks occur and plant colonies have been documented in a number of locations beyond the proposed 40 acre plus “preserve.”

Mahalo for your consideration

Lucienne de Naie, Conservation Chair

Sierra Club Maui Group