Nene Downlisted From Endangered To Threatened

Dec 9, 2019

The Trump administration is downlisting the nene -- Hawaii's state bird -- from endangered to threatened.

 

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt made the announcement Sunday at the Pearl Harbor National Wildlife Refuge in Ewa Beach.

 

Federal officials say the nene has been brought back from the brink of extinction through a breeding program and habitat restoration.

 

Downlisting is a step that officials take before an endangered species is delisted -- and removed from under strict federal wildlife protections.

 

It's not the first time that the Trump administration has taken this step.

 

In 2017, the administration downlisted the manatee after its numbers grew to over 6,000 from a few hundred. That's according to the Interior Department's website.

 

Environmentalists at the time protested the action, saying threats to the manatee habitat -- and from humans -- remained real.

 

The nene is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. In the 1950s, its numbers had dwindled to about 30 birds in the wild. Efforts over the years have restored the population to about 3,000 statewide.

 

But at least one wildlife group was not impressed with the Trump administration's actions on endangered species.

“The successful efforts to recover the nene demonstrate how effective the Endangered Species Act truly is,” said Maxx Phillips, the Center for Biological Diverssity's Hawaii director, in a release. “Without this landmark law, wildlife in danger of disappearing forever, like the nene, would have little hope of recovery.”

But Phillips said while the Trump administration has delisted several species, it has failed to protect other species near extinction. "So far the Trump administration has only protected 21 species under the Endangered Species Act — the lowest of any administration at this point in a presidential term," the group said.

The group also charged recent rollbacks to key Endangered Species Act regulations could lead to extinction for hundreds of animals and plants.

“Secretary Bernhardt has been an opponent of this important law that saved the nene for years,” said Phillips. “If we want to have more successes like the nene, Bernhardt and the Trump administration’s head in the sand approach to the extinction crisis must be overturned.”