On September 8, 2004, Earthjustice reached a settlement with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that puts the Rota bridled white-eye a crucial step closer to having its critical habitat protected. The FWS conceded that its failure to map out and protect the white-eye's critical habitat in January 2004 violated the Endangered Species Act. In the settlement, the FWS agreed to come out with a proposed critical habitat designation by September 7, 2005, and a final designation decision by September 7, 2006.
Conservation groups petitioned the Department of Interior to put the white-eye on the endangered species list in 1980. The department agreed that the species was declining and, in 1982, with 10,000 birds left in the wild, identified the white-eye as a candidate for listing. The species continued to decline unprotected for over two decades until Earthjustice, representing the Center for Biological Diversity, secured a series of court orders forcing the FWS to list it as an endangered species in January 2004. By this time, the wild population of white-eye had declined by 90 percent. Earthjustice's court victory will provide much needed assistance to the white-eye as it struggles to recover.
Earthjustice attorney David Henkin commented on the settlement, "This case vividly illustrates Congress' wisdom when it empowered citizens to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to comply with the Endangered Species Act. Even though the Service knew that its refusal to protect the white-eye's essential recovery habitat was illegal, it would have gotten away with it, had concerned citizens not stepped forward to uphold the law."