Hawaiian bird deaths may trigger lawsuit

Feb. 4, 2010 at 11:16 AM
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LIHUE, Hawaii, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Four Hawaiian organizations and the American Bird Conservancy say they might file a lawsuit over the continuing deaths of rare native seabirds.

The organizations, including the Conservation Council for Hawaii and the Center for Biological Diversity, all represented by the public interest environmental law firm Earthjustice, say they sent notice to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative that its refusal to implement measures to protect Hawaiian petrels and Newell's shearwaters from fatal collisions with its power lines violates the Endangered Species Act.

"Because KIUC has refused to modify its power lines to minimize bird strikes, literally thousands of critically imperiled seabirds have died needlessly," said biologist Don Heacock, a member of the Conservation Council for Hawaii. "Year after year, I've picked up dozens upon dozens of shearwaters -- injured or already dead -- under KIUC's lines."

Newell's shearwaters, which were listed as a threatened species in 1975, are found only in Hawaii, with the majority of birds nesting on the island of Kauai. A recent study found the shearwater population on Kauai had decreased by 75 percent in just 15 years, officials said.

Earthjustice said since each bird killed is a separate violation of the Endangered Species Act, with each violation subject to a fine of $50,000, KIUC could face millions of dollars in fines.

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