Hawai’i Celebrates Arbor Day with Forest Protection Funding
By Wendy Osher
In celebration of Arbor Day, Governor Neil Abercrombie announced the allocation of funding for the protection of Hawaii’s forests.
Here on Maui, three projects were selected to protect more than 11,000 acres on the north, east and south slopes of Haleakalā.
State officials say that 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.
The funding will be used for the protection of the area from such animals, and the removal of invasive plant species.
“I want everyone to remember that trees and forests are what make life possible here in Hawai‘i, because they collect Hawaii’s water supply,” said Governor Neil Abercrombie in acknowledgement of Friday, November 2 as Arbor Day in Hawai‘i. “Saving Hawaii’s forests means ensuring our water supply for future generations,” he said.
State officials say more than half of Hawaii’s 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 Hawai‘i, much of our water supply is captured by trees’ leaves and branches that gather moisture from the clouds,” said William Aila, Jr. chair of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
“Our most common native tree is the ‘ohi‘a, 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 ululā`au – The rain follows the forest,’” said Aila.
Forests also are credited with 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.
State officials say the objective of their plan is to double watershed protection efforts in the coming decades.
To fund the plan Governor Abercrombie announced the release of $2.5 million for capital improvement projects for forest protection projects. Aside from the Maui projects mentioned above, other projects across the state being funded through the effort include:
Island of Hawai‘i:
- 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.
- A project to protect more than 2,000 acres of remote watershed forests in the Alaka‘i 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 Kaua‘i organizations and individuals for input on this project.