Burden of proof on NMI for ESA-proposed species


Sixteen plant and animal species in the CNMI have been proposed for listing as endangered or threatened through the Fish and Wildlife Service, out of ongoing and projected threats and purported lax regulations and enforcement—leaving the burden of proof on the CNMI to find otherwise.

The public comment periods for the proposed ruling have been opened twice since last year. The current comment period is ongoing and ends on Feb. 11 next month. Comments last closed in December, after opening in October.

It is believed that there are more individual species left in the region than what the U.S. Wildlife Service accounted for. Saipan Tribune learned that biologists from the CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife have been working to see if the number of remaining species listed by the Service is warranted.

One CNMI plant species—the Maesa walkeri—has a “very limited number” left, with “fewer than 50 in the wild,” according to the Service, as the plant appears to only occur on Rota, where 11 of the proposed 23 plant and animal species in Guam and CNMI are listed to occur.

Biologists have visited Rota, Tinian, and Goat Island to conduct their research, it was learned. The Northern Islands have not been visited and will not be in time for the closing of the comment period, reportedly out of lack of funding.

One biologist, when pressed for details on their work, indicated that these specifics would be submitted formally to the Service.

Manny Pangelinan, director of DFW, could not be reached yesterday.

Among factors like habitat destruction, overuse, and other manmade and natural factors, one—the “inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms”—was also explored in regards to the CNMI.

The Service cited several chapters of CNMI law that purports to protect the proposed 16 species. But the Service found that these regulations are “modestly enforced and are currently inadequate to protect” these species, finding that for both Guam and the CNMI, the enforcement of these “regulations is not documented.”

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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