January 06, 2020

Hirono Introduces Bill to Protect Endangered and Threatened Pacific Island Plants

Pacific Islands Plant Conservation Fund Would Receive $30 Million to Save Most Threatened Species

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono, along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) introduced the Extinction Prevention Act. This bill would provide funds to protect a wide variety of threatened and endangered species throughout the nation, including Pacific Island plants, North American butterflies, Eastern freshwater mussels, and Southwest desert fish.

“Hawaii is home to over 350 federally listed threatened and endangered plant species, the most of any state,” Senator Hirono said. “The growing threat posed by climate change means these plants are especially vulnerable, and we need to act now to prevent them from disappearing forever. The Pacific Islands Plant Conservation Fund that this bill establishes would provide critical resources to prevent our most sensitive plant species from going extinct.”  

The bill establishes a conservation fund for each of the four targeted species groups. The Pacific Islands Plant Conservation Fundwould receive $30 million over six years. The fund would be divided among applicants from states, tribes, research institutions, nonprofit organizations, or authorities that manage habitat that is home to the targeted group of species. Priority would be given to projects with a local funding match and funds would be targeted to on-the-ground efforts to prevent the most sensitive species from going extinct.

“The DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife is charged with protecting 45% of the nation’s endangered plants in remote nearly-inaccessible mountainous areas with limited resources,” David Smith, Administrator for the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife, said. “We are excited at the potential funding this bill could bring to increase our capacity to prevent the extinction of hundreds of nationally important plant species.”

Protecting and promoting the use of native plants is a priority for the Senator. Earlier this year Senator Hirono reintroduced S. 2384, the Botanical Sciences and Native Plant Materials Research, Restoration, and Promotion Act, which includes a collaborative grant program to fund efforts to keep rare plant species from becoming endangered and help endangered plant species recover. The bill also encourages federal land management agencies to prioritize hiring botanists and incorporating native plants on federal lands. The Senator touted these priorities in a visit to Lyon Arboretum in August 2018.