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By Jan TenBruggencate

HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (January 3, 2000 – Honolulu Advertiser)---The Conservation Council for Hawaii has filed suit to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to grant endangered species protection to the Oahu ‘elepaio, a native forest bird whose numbers have declined precipitously in recent years.

The council gave the service notice in October it would sue if the bird was not placed on the federal endangered species list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been processing the listing of the ‘elepaio, but has not completed it. The agency has been working to meet court-ordered deadlines to protect other species, both listing them and designating their critical habitats, said the agency’s Barbara Maxfield.

The Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, representing the Conservation Council, filed the suit yesterday against Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Fish and Wildlife Service director Jamie Rappaport Clark.

It said wildlife observers found the ‘elepaio so widespread and numerous in the early 1900s that they expected the bird to survive increased development. But by 1990, its range was down to 80 square miles — just 8 percent of its original terrain.]

The ‘elepaio population is estimated at 200 to 500 animals in six isolated groups in the Waianae and Koolau mountains.

The small, brownish insect-eating bird with a sharply upturned tail was watched by canoe builders in early Hawai‘i to determine whether trees being considered for canoe-making were infested with insects.

"In just my short lifetime," said Karen Blue, executive director of the Conservation Council, "we have pushed yet another of our few remaining Hawaiian native bird species to the brink of extinction."

For additional reports from The Honolulu Advertiser, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Honolulu Advertiser.

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