Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Massive conservation partnership covers 25% of Hawai'i land area

Partnering is the new paradigm in conservation in Hawai'i, and a group of Big Island partners have announced a stupendous new camaraderie.

It will join together for conservation a quarter of all the land in the state—a million acres that sweeps across the Big Island, covering 40 percent of that island's land area.

(Images: photo of Ka'ū Forest Reserve by Christine Ogura, Map of the new Three Mountain Alliance region .)

The new Three Mountain Alliance watershed partnership covers the slopes of much of Mauna Loa, Kīlauea and Hualālai.

Nine landowners have signed on on a memorandum of understanding. They include: The Kamehameha Schools and The Nature Conservancy of Hawai'i; the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources and Department of Public Safety; and the federal government's U.S. National Park
Service (Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center, USDA Forest Service and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

A management plan for the region covers the joint efforts they propose to protect the watersheds.

“The Three Mountain Alliance will focus on protection of native habitat and species and will benefit the community by managing upland, forested portions of the watershed that provide essential groundwater, water filtration, and flood reduction,” said a press release announcing the partnership.

The new organization brings to nine the number of watershed partnerships across the state.

The Three Mountain Alliance is one of nine such partnerships throughout the State. And they have their own partnership, the Hawai‘i Association of Watershed Partnerships. The management plan for the Three Mountain Alliance as well as other watershed partnership information is available at www.hawp.org.

One of the early projects for the alliance is to involve students and teachers in an education and restoration project at the national park and adjacent Keauhou Ranch, using native plants grown by inmates at Kūlani Correctional Facility. The alliance also plans to control wild cattle in several state-owned forest reserves in the region, to fence dry forests of upland Kona to protect them, to conduct joint invasive weed control work and to develop a watershed management plan for the high country forests of Ka'ū and Kapāpala.

Here are some quotes from the various partners:

Cindy Orlando, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park superintendent: “Partnerships such as the Three Mountain Alliance are the most effective way to address threats to the landscape such as invasive weed species that occur across land ownership boundaries,. The Park is able to accomplish much more with partners than we could on our own by sharing scarce staff and resources to accomplish joint objectives.”

Laura Thielen, chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources : “DLNR is pleased to participate in this latest multi-partner cooperative agreement. Land-based activities have a direct effect on nearshore waters and corals and fisheries. For this reason, partnerships are critical to support healthy ecosystems, on land and in the ocean.”

Roger Imoto, Division of Forestry and Wildlife Branch Manager for Hawai‘i Island: “Coordinated on-the-ground management of threats such as invasive animals, weeds and fire is critically needed to maintain healthy watersheds on the slopes of Kîlauea, Mauna Loa and Hualâlai to sustain the future quality and quantity of fresh water and benefit Hawaii’s people as well as native plants and animals.”

Peter Simmons, Kamehameha Schools regional assets manager: “Large landowners such as Kamehameha Schools have a responsibility to show leadership in caring for their lands because these areas are critically important to the life, health and well being of the native Hawaiian
ecosystems and human communities that inhabit them.”

Beryl Iramina, warden at Kūlani Correctional Facility, whose inmtes will do some of the conservation work: “The Department of Public Safety and Kūlani Correctional Facility are very excited to participate with this innovative partnership through our inmate programs such as the conservation workline and the native plant horticulture program. By participating in the partnership, our inmates receive education and work training opportunities. Inmates can also give back to the community through our community service programs helping Three Mountain Alliance partners protect and restore important watershed lands.”

© 2008 Jan W. TenBruggencate