East Hawaii News

Hirono Addresses Rapid Ohia Death at Senate Committee Hearing

March 8, 2016, 4:10 PM HST
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Senator Mazie Hirono. U.S. Senate photo.

Senator Mazie Hirono. U.S. Senate photo.

At Tuesday’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, Senator Mazie Hirono raised questions to United States Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell regarding the progress in the combat of Rapid Ohia Death.

During the hearing, Senator Hirono also called for robust funding for the USFS as Congress reviews President Barack Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget request.

On the Big Island, Rapid Ohia Death has spread from an impact on 15,000 acres of land in 2014 to over 30,000.

“We depend on the expertise and what the Forest Service brings to the table,” said Senator Hirono during the hearing. “The Ohia makes up 80 percent of our native forests and is ecologically and culturally the most important native plant in Hawai’i. On-the-ground personnel are trying to answer several critical questions about this disease, including transmission and resistance. We still need the resources to do the proper investigations and research.”

Chief Thomas Tidwell acknowledged the collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and the University of Hawai’i and laid out the need to continue research into the cause of Rapid Ohia Death and eradication methods.

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The USFS Fiscal Year 2017 budget includes more than $32 million for invasive species research, $4 million for the Hoomau and Helemano Wilderness Area, and continued funding for Island Forests at Risk.

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