Activists: DOT lighting at airports, harbors is culprit for endangered bird deaths

Activists: DOT lighting at airports, harbors is culprit for endangered bird deaths
(Image: Earthjustice)
(Image: Earthjustice)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Environmental groups plan on filing a suit against the Hawaii Department of Transportation, saying lighting at state harbors contributed to the death of three species of endangered birds.

Activists also allege transportation officials knew about the risk, but did little to nothing to ensure wildlife safety.

According to the law firm Earthjustice on behalf of the three environmental groups, lights at state harbors and airports on Kauai, Maui and Lanai contributed to the deaths of Newell's Shearwaters, Hawaiian petrels and band-rumped storm petrels. All three species are federally protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Activists want the DOT to make policy changes to comply with wildlife protection guidelines.

Attorney David Henkin of Earthjustice said the purpose of the suit is to get the DOT to reassess lighting at state airports and harbors, and eliminate unnecessary light pollution. Henkins also says the DOT is failing to obtain relevant permitting, and doing little to protect endangered species.

In October 2016, Earthjustice says the DOT was in the process of forming a wildlife conservation plan with wildlife agencies, but pulled out of the plan.

The conservation plan would would have provided guidelines to minimize harm to seabirds on Kauai.

"Fixing the lights so these magnificent seabirds on the brink of extinction aren't killed is completely feasible," Brian Segee, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity said. "Instead, the department is doing everything in its power to avoid protecting these highly imperiled native Hawaiian birds. It's worse than irresponsible — it's unethical and illegal."

Hawaii News Now reached out to the DOT, but a spokesperson said they have not received the suit, and are unable to comment.

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