- Associated Press - Friday, April 8, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii Gov. David Ige is meeting with wildlife conservationists and government officials from across the nation to figure out how to help Hawaii’s endangered species.

Officials from the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources, California Natural Resources Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are among those meeting as part of two-day workshop held by the non-partisan Western Governors’ Association. They’re meeting to figure out how to help endangered animals while protecting local businesses.

The workshop was spurred by Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead’s Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative, which was launched when he was chair of the organization. The Hawaii workshop is the last of four held across the country.

In June, the governors in the organization will meet to discuss findings from the talks and plan the next steps to protect endangered species in their states, said Joe Rassenfoss, communications director for the Western Governors’ Association.

The Hawaii conference is highlighting issues that range from eradicating invasive species to incorporating climate change awareness into the Endangered Species Act. They’ll also talk about how to protect marine animals while ensuring the success of local businesses such as fishermen.

“This workshop itself really does make sense to be hosted in Hawaii,” Ige said. “We have more endangered species here in our islands than any other state in the country.”

Hawaii is home to over 10,000 species found nowhere else on earth, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. Ige said that despite the unique threats to Hawaii’s native plants and animals, many other governors are trying to tackle similar challenges to ensure the protection of endangered wildlife while facing climate change.

The group of governors will collaborate on policies to help animals and the environment while also protecting local businesses, Ige said. The Hawaii governor said he wants to work with federal agencies to focus resources on specific endangered plants, animals or areas of land that need protection instead of implementing broad policies that are hard to enforce.

“I think it would be more beneficial to protection of species if we could focus our efforts rather than paint a broad brush area that is so enormous that active management is very, very difficult,” Ige said.

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