East Hawaii News

Arbor Day Update: Abercrombie Releases Watershed Funding

November 2, 2012, 9:36 AM HST
* Updated November 2, 2:57 PM
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In recognition of Arbor Day in Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie has released $2.5 million in funding for watershed projects on the neighbor islands.

The funding will assist a program called “Rain Follows the Forest” being carried out by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. The program’s aim is to double watershed protection efforts in Hawaii in the coming decades.

More than half of the state’s forests have been lost over time, a statement from the governor said, with drought and expanding populations of invasive species threatening the remainder.

Officials say the role of watersheds is crucia.

“In Hawai‘i, much of our water supply is captured by trees’ leaves and branches that gather moisture from the clouds,” DLNR Chairperson William J. Aila, Jr. said in a statement.

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“Our most common native tree is the ohia, a word that means ‘to gather,’” Aila said. “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.’”

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He said forests are crucial to Hawaii’s future as they provide a home for native plants and animals, and prevent erosion and runoff that harms coral reefs and nearshore marine ecosystems, beaches and fish populations.

The projects funded on the Big Island include the planting of native mamane trees at a 5,200-acres site on the northern slope of Mauna Kea. Nearly 50,000 of the trees – which provide critical habitat for the endangered palila bird – have been planted with the help of volunteers over the past three years.

Other projects are being carried out in remote forests of Kohala and Ka`u through invasive species control, which includes construction of barriers, and restoration of native species. Aila said these projects include maintaining public access for recreational and cultural gathering purposes through the use of pedestrian gates and step-overs along fence corridors.

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Similar projects are set for Maui and Kauai.

Earlier today the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife marked Arbor Day in Hawaii with the sale of native plants at its nurseries. Proceeds will be used to support nursery operations and forest management.

Native species sold included koa, koai‘a, ohia, hame, kokio (hibiscus), alahe‘e, pohinahina, sandalwood, and loulu. A few non-native species popular with gardeners also were sold.

State forestry officials note planting a native plant celebrates the forests that are fundamental to Hawaii’s way of life.

National Arbor Day is on the last Friday in April, but many states observe Arbor Day on different dates usually according to best tree-planting times. In Hawaii it’s the first Friday in November.

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