Environmental Law Program

ELP Co-Sponsors Invasive Species and Biosecurity Forum

On March 23, 2019, the Environmental Law Program (ELP), State Environmental Council, the Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC), and the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) co-sponsored the Invasive Species and Biosecurity in Hawaiʻi: New Tools and Opportunities for Public Participation Forum. The half-day event featured speakers from multiple sectors, including the Office of Environmental Quality Control, Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Council, Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture, Department of Land and Natural Resources, University of Hawaiʻi, Koʻolau Mountains Watershed Partnership, Hawaiʻi Ant Lab, and Oahu Invasive Species Committee. The first half of the event highlighted progress made by state agencies and partners under the umbrella of Hawaiʻi’s Interagency Biosecurity Plan. The second half of the forum discussed invasive species of particular interest to Hawaiʻi residents and highlighted opportunities for public engagement on the issues.

The event began with an introduction by Makaʻala Kaʻaumoana (OEQC Environmental Council Information & Outreach Committee), opening remarks from Scott Glenn (Director, OEQC), followed by Josh Atwood (Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Council). Atwood provided a broad overview of the invasive species and biosecurity issues facing Hawaiʻi, including the major economic costs associated. Atwood discussed the Hawaiʻi Interagency Biosecurity Plan 2017-2027, highlighting the multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach.

Johnathon Ho, Department of Agriculture, presented on biosecurity at Hawaiʻi’s borders and discussed the electronic manifesting and inspection facilities. Ho discussed the challenges that the Plant Quarantine Branch faces, such as a limited number of inspectors, and the importance of increasing the efficiency of inspections with tools like an electronic manifest system.  An E-manifest system provides information about imports prior to their importation, allowing inspectors to prioritize those that are higher risk.

Cynthia King, from the Department of Land and Natural Resources explained the issues of mosquitos in Hawaiʻi, vector control, and the potential for landscape-scale control. She explained that mosquito-borne avian malaria has a major impact on Hawaiʻi’s native bird species. King discussed potential mosquito control mechanisms and current studies being conducted.  She further emphasized the importance of group and agency partnerships and the need for strong community support to push mosquito control projects forward.

Rob Hauff, DLNR and Ambyr Mokiao-Lee, University of Hawaiʻi, spoke about Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD), early detection, and how the public can help. Hauff explained the importance of ʻŌhiʻa to Hawaiʻi’s forests, including their cultural significance and importance to watersheds. Hauff explained that there are two different strains of the fungus causing Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, noting that the fungus gets into the wood through wounds in the trees. Humans, beetles, and wind are all contributing factors to the movement of ROD. Through the Early Detection and Rapid Response program, various methods are used to contain the disease, including aerial surveying. Mokiao-Lee addressed how to protect what is remaining. Mokiao-Lee noted that prevention mechanisms, such as not moving ʻŌhiʻa wood, posts, or plants are crucial to stopping the spread of ROD. Mokiao-Lee emphasized that the majority of the ʻŌhiʻa forests are still healthy and the end goal is to protect the forests.

John-Carl Watson, Koʻolau Mountains Watershed Partnership, discussed the issue of albizia trees in Hawaiʻi and ways to combat this fast-growing threat. Watson noted that albizia trees can grow up to fifteen feet per year, highlighting the need for early detection and removal. Watson explained the broad range of threats that albizia trees pose, including threats to native ecosystems, agricultural systems, and utilities. Watson addressed the purpose of the Statewide Strategic Plan as providing an overarching guide and roadmap for managing albizia. Watson explained control techniques, such as incision point herbicide application, bark stripping, and girdling. The plan outlines nineteen objectives which are broken down into fifty-four implementation tasks. Watson encouraged individuals to talk to local legislators and learn to identify the trees so that they can act fast.

Cas Vanderwoude, Hawaiʻi Ant Lab and Rachel Neville, Oahu Invasive Species Committee presented on Little Fire Ants in Hawaiʻi. Vanderwoude highlighted how little fire ants (LFA) have broad reaching impacts, including affecting residents, visitors, domestic and wild animals, agriculture and nurseries, and natural areas. Vanderwoude noted how Hawaiʻi’s climate allows for year-round breeding and survival of LFA. The population density of affected areas is major, as ¼ acre can contain 20 million LFA. Neville addressed the importance of detecting infestations early and stressed that they can be eliminated if found early enough. Neville underlined the importance of everyone testing their yard and demonstrated how to use the LFA test kits provided by the Oahu Invasive Species Committee. 

Overall the event provided an informative and through-provoking discussion on a wide range of invasive species and biosecurity issues facing Hawaiʻi with a focus on what individuals can do to help.

View the presentations here


ED & RR 3/26/19