The Hawaii Invasive Species Council hosted its awards ceremony March 4 at the Hawaii State Capitol Auditorium.
Sen. Russell Ruderman presented the Hawaii County MVP Award to Dr. Tim Richards of the Hawaii Cattleman’s Association.
The Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council has been a critical partner in the development and release of a moth from Madagascar (Secusio extensa) as a biocontrol agent to control invasive fireweed (Senecio madagascariensis).
Fireweed is very toxic to livestock and and its rapid spread across the Big Island and Maui across Hawaii Island and Maui, outcompeting other plants.
Over a decade of study by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture went into ensuring that the moth from Madagascar would feed only on fireweed and not on other plants in Hawaii.
The Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council helped the bio-control through the federal approval process to be released as a bio-control agent earlier this year.
Now that the moth is being released, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council anticipate that the moth will slow the spread of fireweed, limiting its environmental and economic impacts.
Ruderman said, “I would like to congratulate Dr. Tim Richards and the Hawaii Cattleman’s Association on their MVP award from the Hawaii Invasive Species Council. As anyone on the Big Island knows, we have been inundated by many invasive species over the years. Fireweed, the red mangrove, and the coqui frog represent three of the most potentially devastating invaders we have seen in recent memory. The work of the Cattleman’s Association in the containment of fireweed has been monumental in forwarding the process of finding an acceptable biocontrol agent thatr will not negatively impact our ecosystem.”
Honorable mentions were Malama O Puna and Tim Tunison for their work on red mangrove eradication and control of the coqui frog, respectively.
Lead by Rene Siracusa, Malama O Puna is a grassroots environmental non-profit based in Lower Puna.
The organization’s invasive species programs are coordinated by Dr. Ann Kobsa, who has overseen a number of challenging projects.
Malama O Puna began working to remove red mangrove from Wai Opae in 2005, which lead to federal funding for the organization to explore removal from four other sites with the goal of island-wide eradication. Malama O Puna has also tackled miconia, clidemia, pickleweed, and other difficult species.
It is due to the tireless efforts of Rene, Ann, and the staff and volunteers with Mālama O Puna, that Hawaii Island is well on its way to being mangrove-free and its native ecosystems are more secure.
Retired from his position at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Tim Tunison still continues to be involved in restoration of forests and control of invasive species.
Tunison has organized a coqui control program based in Volcano called The Coquistadors and has created a manual for the mechanical and chemical control of invasive plants on Kilauea.
Tunison has made a substantially positive impact on the Volcano community and the surrounding environment of Kilauea.
Ruderman added, “I would also like to extend my congratulations and heartfelt thank you to Malama o Puna, and Tim Tunison . They have both contributed significantly to the saving of our native species and economy from irreparable harm. Their efforts have made meaningful impacts in protecting our fragile ecosystems and native species while minimizing the negative environmental and economical impacts to our island and state.”