Assistant Secretary Cantor Highlights President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda, Fosters Strategic Partnerships in Visit to Pacific Islands

Substantial new resources funding work to prevent the extinction of Hawaiian forest birds

Last edited 01/26/2024

Date: Friday, January 26, 2024

MAUI, Hawaiʻi — Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Carmen G. Cantor completed a weeklong trip to the Pacific today, where she highlighted investments from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to prevent the imminent extinction of Hawaiian forest birds and underscored the Department of the Interior’s commitment to the U.S. territories and Freely Associated States (FAS).    

In Maui, Assistant Secretary Cantor visited one of the remaining high-quality forests where Hawaiian forest birds persist in the wild, and she met with partners to amplify the important ongoing work to prevent their extinction. During her visit to Honolulu last year, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced nearly $16 million as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to prevent the imminent extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds.  

The funding supports implementation of the Department’s Hawaiian Forest Bird Conservation Keystone Initiative and Strategy for Preventing the Extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds. The strategy provides a shared vision among the Department’s bureaus for a comprehensive approach to prevent the extinction of Hawaiian forest birds by applying a science-based approach, various conservation techniques, and Native Hawaiian biocultural knowledge and practices. Assistant Secretary Cantor discussed with local partners how this funding offers an historic opportunity to allocate substantial resources toward the conservation efforts required to save these endangered and threatened species from the brink of extinction.  

She visited Haleakalā National Park, where funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are supporting invasive mosquito control. Assistant Secretary Cantor heard from partners about the first field deployment of the novel mosquito control last year – a significant milestone for the ongoing work to protect bird populations on the island from diseases spread by mosquitos.  

Assistant Secretary Cantor also toured the Maui Bird Conservation Center (MBCC), one of two captive breeding centers managed by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance that cares for many of the most critically endangered Hawaiian forest birds. MBCC is working to expand captive care facilities with new investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  

Historically, there were over 50 different species of honeycreeper birds in Hawaiʻi. That number is now down to just 17, due to an array of threats that have caused significant declines in their populations. Habitat loss, invasive species, climate change and disease, such as avian malaria, spread by mosquitoes, are urgent challenges impacting bird species across the Hawaiian Islands.  

Assistant Secretary Cantor also traveled to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, as part of the Presidential Delegation of the United States for the inauguration of Her Excellency Hilda Heine. The Republic of the Marshall Islands is one of the FAS, along with Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia, which are important strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific region.  

Recently, the Interior Department and partner agencies negotiated and concluded historic agreements with the FAS for another 20 years of economic assistance under the Compacts of Free Association (COFA). Extending COFA assistance is a cornerstone of the Biden-Harris administration’s national security interests in the region. The Compacts underpin our strong ties and historic relationship in the region and supports a free and open Indo-Pacific.  


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