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Hawai‘i is known as the extinction capital of the world. In the Hawaiian archipelago, no island has had more extinctions than Maui island, and no Hawaiian ecosystem has suffered more losses than the mesic koa-dominated forest of Haleakalā. Leeward Haleakalā has been called the epicenter of plant extinction in the Hawaiian Islands.

Numerous rare native plant species occur or did occur on leeward Haleakalā. For some of these, the watershed forests are their sole natural habitat and hence the only realistic hope for their survival in the wild. Restoration of leeward Haleakalā forests is consistent with Federal and State programs to protect Federally designated critical habitat for 12 plants: Geranium arboreum, Bidens micrantha ssp. kalealaha, Phlegmariurus mannii, Phyllostegia mollis, Neraudia sericea, Geranium multiflorum, Diellia erecta, Diplazium molokaiense, Clermontia lindseyana, Argyroxiphium sandwicense, Plantago princeps, Alectryon macrococcus, and six Endangered bird species: Branta sandwicensis, Loxops coccineus, Melamprosops phaeosoma, Palmeria dolei, Pterodroma phaeopygia, and Pseudonestor xanthophrys. Efforts to restore these forests have been identified as priority tasks in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Forest Birds, and specifically as a top priority for the recovery of the highly endangered Maui parrotbill.

Evidence from fossil bird bones discovered in Maui lava tubes suggests that the habitats of several Endangered Hawaiian passerines now often associated with remote rain forest sites, such as Maui parrotbill (Pseudonestor xanthophrys), Crested honeycreeper (Palmeria dolei), and po‘o-uli (Melamprosops phaesoma), prior to human contact were concentrated on southern Haleakalā. Another important advantage of leeward forests for Hawaiian birds, when compared to windward forests, is the lack of the Southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus), a primary vector for transmission of bird pox, avian malaria, and other bird diseases. Efforts to restore these forests appear to be of critical importance in the recovery of the remaining Hawaiian forest bird species. Recognizing this, the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources is already involved in a major fencing and feral ungulate-removal project in Kahikinui, within the LHWRP, with the aim of creating a potential release site for captive-reared Maui parrotbill.

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