Hawai'i State News

A bill headed to the governor’s desk would fund programs and jobs to battle invasive species in Hawai‘i

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In a historic response to increased awareness and concern about the invasive species crisis in the state of Hawai‘i, the Hawaiʻi State Legislature unanimously passed a measure to create control or eradication programs in an effort to eradicate the widespread damage they cause statewide.

House Bill 2619 HD1 SD1 CD1 explicitly requires the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture to lead and coordinate the state’s invasive pest control and biosecurity efforts. It also provides $50,000 to each county as a grant-in-aid, subject to a county match, for the implementation of feral chicken control programs.

HB 2619 will advance to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

The bill commits nearly $20 million to the state agency to assist in the administration and implementation of their Biosecurity Program, including 44 new positions. The bill also adds 22 new Plant Quarantine Branch inspectors to oversee plant materials, which is critical in order to mitigate the transportation of these invasive pests.


It also requires the HDOA to post on its website real-time updates on pest infestations, including date, location, actions performed, and names of staff and organizations involved, so that the public knows exactly who to contact at the HDOA if the problem isn’t being addressed. The bill also provides funding to each county as a grant-in-aid, subject to a county match, for the implementation of feral chicken control programs.

In his eighth year as the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee Chair, Sen, Mike Gabbard, who represents Kapolei, Makakilo, Kalaeloa, portions of Fernandez Village and ‘Ewa on O‘ahu, introduced the companion bill (SB2419) in the Senate. He said he’s excited to see the biosecurity bill on its way to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

“After many years of demanding our state do more to support agriculture and help the people of Hawai‘i regarding invasive species, we’re finally putting our money where our mouth is,” Gabbard said. “In my humble opinion, this bill is a masterpiece… indeed, it’s been a long time coming.”


Rep. Kirstin Kahaloa, who represents Hōnaunau, Nāpō‘opo‘o, Captain Cook, Kealakekua, Keauhou, Hōlualoa, Kailua-Kona, said this measure recommits to protecting its environment, food security, and way of life against invasive species by placing the leadership of all biosecurity efforts on the Department of Agriculture.

The funding for staff and programming will help to manage and eradicate invasive species like coconut rhinoceros beetles, little fire ants, two-lined spittlebugs, and more, Kahaloa said.

“This legislation will let our keiki play free without the fear of being bitten by little fire ants,” the lawmaker added. “It will keep our picturesque Hawaiian scenes with coconut trees proudly displayed across Hawaiʻi. This effort helps our state make biosecurity a priority.”


Under current law, Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes, the HDOA is required to implement a comprehensive biosecurity program to control and prevent increasing threats of pests and prohibited or restricted organisms without a permit from spreading throughout the state.

While inspections are critical, increasing the state’s ability to prevent the entry of high-risk products would enhance its ability to mitigate and manage invasive pests. This is vitally important not only to protect the state’s fragile environment but also to grow Hawaiʻi’s local agricultural industries and to increase levels of self-sufficiency and sustainability.

“Designating a centralized agency to bolster the defense of our lands and shores will protect our natural habitat and preserve the well-being of our state,” said House Committee on Finance Chair Kyle T. Yamashita, who represents Upcountry Maui.

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