East Hawaii News

Funding Earmarked for Invasive Species Control on Big Island

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The budget for the fighting of invasive species for the upcoming fiscal year in Hawaii consists of $2.5 million, including nearly $482,000 for programs specific to the Big Island.

That includes $308,900 for the Big Island Invasive Species Committee, specifically for invasive species control efforts.

The funding, the most for any of the state’s counties, recognizes that Hawaii County has “extraordinary natural resources from mauka to makai,” according to information from the statewide Hawaii Invasive Species Council.

The council noted that there are 98 threatened or endangered species on the Big Island, and that the island contains more than 75% of the state’s strategic conservation lands and more than half of state-designated Important Agriculture Lands.

The council said invasive  species pose a significant threat to the long-term viability of native ecosystems, watersheds, and a thriving agricultural and horticultural trade on the Big Island.

That funding is also bolstered by an additional $240,000 in federal and private funds earmarked for “early detection and rapid response to incipient invasive species as well  as ongoing control of previously identified targets.”

The Hawaii County funding also includes nearly $130,000 for the Big Island Invasive Deer Project to combat the threat of axis deer, three of which were intentionally introduced on the island in 2009.

The council said according to current estimates, the axis deer population here could be as low as 20 animals. It said that indicates a “narrow window of opportunity” to prevent the economic and ecological damage already suffered by neighboring islands where deer populations have expanded to the point that eradication is no longer possible.

Maui County estimates that deer cause more than $1 million in damage to agriculture there annually, despite $1 million spent on their removal from ranches, farms and resorts.

Based on Maui’s situation, University of Hawaii researchers have estimated the potential impact to agriculture on the Big Island from the deer at more than $8 million annually.

The Big Island Invasive Species Committee will also receive $43,000 to continue its programs of outreach, education and training to involve the public in invasive species control.

“The scale of the Big Island, the number of nursery businesses selling on and off-island, and the presence of established pests incipient to neighbor islands demands a strong outreach program and involvement from all sectors in detection and prevention,” the council said.

Hawaii County will likely also benefit from other statewide programs receiving funds, including:

  • The Hawaii Ant Lab, which is the point of contact for control of species already established such as the little fire ant, and identification of possible new invasive ant threats
  • The Hawaii-Pacific Weed Risk Assessment, which assists in reducing the spread of existing invasive plants and preventing new ones from entering the state
  • The Ballast Water and Hull Fouling Program, which is designed to minimize the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species from ship’s ballast water discharge or from “biofouling” — accumulations of microorganisms, plants or animals on the hulls of arriving vessels

The Hawaii Invasive Species Council is comprised of representatives of a variety of state agencies include the departments of land and natural resources, agriculture, health, transportation and business, economic development and tourism, as well as the University of Hawaii.


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