38 Hawaiian species declared endangered after court case

The agency first proposed classifying the species as endangered last summer, as part of a 2011 settlement agreement with the environmental group WildEarth Guardians. In settling that settlement, the FWS promised to propose designating more than 720 plants and animals as endangered species. 

Critics have derided the pattern of "sue and settle," where environmental groups force regulatory action through lawsuits. 

In a report released this week, the Chamber of Commerce claimed that "sue and settle cases and other lawsuits are effectively driving the regulatory agenda of the Endangered Species Act Program at FWS." 

In its determination, the FWS found that the species "face threats from the present destruction and modification of their habitat" through the spread of nonnative plants and animals like goats and cattle. Hurricanes also pose a danger to the plants and animals, and some plants live in habitats threatened by fire.

Among the species declared endangered are a variant of sea beans, the Lanai tree snail and various types of the plant haha.

The species are on the Hawaiian Islands of Molokai, Lanai and Maui, which were connected during the last Ice Age, about 21,000 years ago. As a result, the islands share multiple unique life forms.

In the notice, the agency is also taking one plant off of the endangered species list that had been there since 1991, since it is also widespread in New Zealand, and reaffirming the status of two Hawaiian plants.

-- This story was updated at 12:43 p.m.