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Effort To Control Dangerous Albizia Tree Begins

December 10, 2013, 12:22 PM HST (Updated December 10, 2013, 1:37 PM)
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A couple of dozen Big Island Invasive Species Council workers and volunteers gathered in lower Puna this morning to begin work in an effort to control a growing scourge in Puna’s forests.

Large, brittle albizia trees — an invasive species — are growing like giant weeds in the forests and subdivisions and falling over, endangering homes and lives.

In August, the BIISC was awarded $35,000 in state-approved funding for a coordinated albizia tree control demonstration in the Keauohana State Forest Reserve and Black Sands Subdivision, both in lower Puna, where in July Tropical Storm Flossie toppled albizia trees onto Route 132, causing a six-hour power outage for 1,358 Helco customers.

BIISC Manager Springer Kaye said the designated area demonstrates the “wide range of issues in albizia control,” and should develop better ways to help communities limit the spread of “these menacing trees in their neighborhood.”

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Falling Albizia trees potentially can cause damage to homes and lives. Photo courtesy Sen. Russell Ruderman.

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State Sen. Russell Ruderman (D-2, Puna, Kau), who has noted albizia’s reputation as “the tree that ate Puna,” was among the volunteers tramping the jungle against albizia today.

Ruderman introduced Senate Resolution 41, passed by the legislature in May, which directed the Hawaii Invasive Species Council to develop a statewide strategic management plan for albizia, saying that “albizia poses a serious threat to public safety, infrastructure, economic viability and native forests across the state.”

“This demonstration project is a great start to statewide management of albizia,” Ruderman said.

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Volunteers are welcome to take part in a second albizia control event this Saturday, Dec. 14th.

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BIISC worker Z. Lorenzo sharpens his machete before venturing into the jungle after Albizia. Photo by Hunter Bishop.

Meet at the junction of Upper Puna Road and Highway 130 at 9 a.m. Participants should wear sturdy shoes and pants, long-sleeved shirt, hat, bug spray and sunscreen, Kaye said.

BIISC members will demonstrate a safe and easy way to kill albizia trees using herbicide. Tools, training and herbicide will be provided. All ages and abilities are welcome. Call BIISC at 933-3340.

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