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Schatz Calls for Federal Rapid Ohia Death Assistance

May 23, 2016, 11:37 AM HST (Updated May 23, 2016, 11:37 AM)
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University of Hawai'i photo.

University of Hawai’i photo.

Senator Brian Schatz on Monday called on the Department of the Interior for action towards the stop of Rapid Ohia Death spread.

In a letter penned to Interior Department secretary Sally Jewell, Senator Schatz asked for additional personnel and resources to protect ohia on the Big Island to assist in the prevention of further spread of the tree disease.

“If this was a forest fire, there would be no question about an all-hands-on-deck, no-holds-barred response.  Rapid Ohia Death is bigger than a forest fire in size and scope, and we need to treat it as such,” said Senator Schatz.  “Researchers have given us clear guidance on how we can stay ahead of this tree disease and prevent its spread to the rest of the state. That is why I have requested Secretary Jewell to direct the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service to provide the additional personnel and resources that will be necessary to protect our ohia.”

Senator Schatz is also seeking support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Last Thursday, the Senate passed the agriculture appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017. In it was a provision introduced by Senator Schatz that directs the USDA to study presorted recent outbreaks of ROD in Hawai’i and report recommended action for response and management within a 90-day period.

ROD in ohia trees was first reported in 2010. It has since become a major threat to the Big Island’s native forests and the watersheds that depend on them.

More than 35,000 acres have been infected by the fungus that causes ROD.

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