East Hawaii News

Hakalau Refuge Spring Open House Canceled Over Fear of ROD Spread

April 12, 2016, 12:44 PM HST
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Aerial view of the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Staff.

Aerial view of the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Staff file image.

The annual Spring Open House at the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge has been canceled.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service officials say the cancellation is a result of concerns over the risk of spreading Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, also known as ROD.

The event was scheduled for April 16 in an area of the Refuge that is not generally open to the public.

“Hakalau Forest protects some of the last, best native Hawaiian forest in the islands. ʻŌhiʻa trees are the foundation of this rainforest habitat,” said Refuge Manager Jim Kraus. “It is vital to the future of the forest ecosystem, and the wildlife that depend on it, that we do our best to protect it from the spread of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death.”

ROD, which is a new disease to the science community, recently popped up on the Big Island. The disease is caused by Ceratocystis fimbriata, which is a type of fungus.

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Ohia trees that begin to show symptoms of the fungus die within a matter of weeks.

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“ROD has not been confirmed on the Refuge, but recent observations in the area and discussions with our research partners at U.S. Department of Agriculture and University of Hawaiʻi have heightened the level of concern for Hakalau Forest,” said Kraus. “Additional sampling efforts have been undertaken as a precaution.”

The Spring Open House is not anticipated to be rescheduled, however, an April 15 event in Hilo put on by the Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge remains on schedule. The event will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Refuge’s establishment.

“The Open House is an important tradition at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, and the public has enjoyed this opportunity since 1993,” said Kraus. “We value greatly the public support we have enjoyed over many years of service from hundreds of volunteers and our Friends Group members and hope to return to this routine in the future.”

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To learn more about the April 15 event, visit the Friends of Hakalau Forest website.

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