Categorized | Environment

Governor announces forest protection funding

MEDIA RELEASE

In acknowledgement of Friday, Nov. 2 as Arbor Day in Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie said, “I want everyone to remember that trees and forests are what make life possible here in Hawaii, because they collect Hawaii’s water supply. Saving Hawaii’s forests means ensuring our water supply for future generations.”

More than half of Hawaii’s irreplaceable forests have been lost over time, and the remainder are threatened by expanding populations of invasive species, and prolonged periods of drought in some areas.

“In Hawaii, much of our water supply is captured by trees’ leaves and branches that gather moisture from the clouds,” said William J. Aila, Jr. DLNR Chairperson. “Our most common native tree is the ohia, a word that means ‘to gather.’ The importance of forests for water has long been recognized – expressed in the ancient Hawaiian proverb ‘Hahai no ka ua i ka ululaau – The rain follows the forest.’”

Forests also keep Hawaii a paradise by providing a home for native plants and animals, and preventing erosion and runoff that harms coral reefs and nearshore marine ecosystems, beaches and fish populations.

To protect and preserve forest watershed areas and our water supply is the objective of the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR) “Rain follows the Forest” plan to double watershed protection efforts in the coming decades.

“This year, I have released $2.5 million for capital improvement projects for forest protection projects. In addition, local jobs provided by these projects will allow communities to give back to the forests that sustain them,” Abercrombie said.

Here are some of the projects prioritized to protect and restore critical watershed forests:

Island of Hawaii

* Native mamane trees are being planted at a 5,200-acre restoration site on the northern slope of Mauna Kea. Nearly 50,000 trees have already been planted in the last 3 years with the help of a thriving volunteer program.

* Projects in remote forests of Kohala and Ka‘u will be funded that are critical to supply drinking and irrigation water for these regions. Comprehensive management actions will include invasive species control, construction of protective barriers, and restoration of native species, including several that are endangered. Public access will be maintained for recreational and gathering purposes. Pedestrian gates and step-overs will be provided along fence corridors to ease access in and out of the protected areas. DLNR and its partners have engaged hundreds of community organizations and individuals to plan and assist with these projects. This includes involving hunters to assist with initial animal removal and opening new accesses to adjacent forests.

Maui

* Three projects were selected to protect more than 11,000 acres on the north, east and south slopes of Haleakalā. On the south slope, more than 90% of the native koa forests have been lost to grazing from hooved animals such as goats, cattle, and deer. However, forests can re-grow in areas if protected from hooved animals, and aided by efforts to remove invasive plants.

Kauai

* A project to protect more than 2,000 acres of remote watershed forests in the Alakai wilderness will begin. Threats to this region include invasive plants such as ginger and Australian tree fern, and damage from feral pigs and goats. DLNR has reached out to more than a hundred Kauai organizations and individuals for input on this project.

In addition to bringing the forest to the people, DLNR wants to bring the people to the forest. But that is not always simple, as many of these areas are landlocked or privately owned. To improve access, the Department has recently hired an access and acquisitions coordinator, to increase protection of Hawaii’s coastlines, forests and watersheds, and fulfill the department’s mandate to provide access and wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities to the people of Hawaii.

“As part of Governor Abercrombie’s New Day Plan to transform state government by increasing public access to these areas, this new coordinator will help Hawaii’s residents and visitors to better enjoy the outdoors and learn about the importance of conserving these unique environmental, cultural and historic areas in Hawaii,” Aila said.

— Find out more:
www.arbordayhawaii.org/events/

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