State receives $ 1.28 million in federal funding to mitigate threats from wildfires and ungulates

Forests around Pu’uwa’awa’a are set to receive additional protections against threats such as wildfires and hoofed animals thanks to a new National Fish and Wildlife Foundation award funded with the support from the US Army and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The foundation has awarded more than $ 1.28 million to the State Department of Lands and Natural Resources to deal with threats at the North Kona site as well as in the Waianae Mountains on Oahu using proven tools such as the fencing, habitat restoration, hoofed animal removal and firebreaks. creation.

According to the state, protecting these high-risk landscapes from fires dramatically increases resilience to flooding and erosion. When landscapes are forested, they hold the soil and can quickly absorb precipitation, greatly reducing flooding. Forest fires increase the risk of flooding by degrading or destroying forests and / or modifying the soil to make it less absorbent.

In the space of a decade, more than 200 fires have occurred within a three mile radius of the project areas. The fires also threaten the high concentrations of endangered plants in these areas.

“The targeted areas have some of the highest populations of rare plants in the remaining dry forests. We are very grateful for this partnership to restore these species, as well as protect life, property and our ecosystems from fire, ”said David Smith, Administrator of the Forestry and Wildlife Division of DLNR.

A remote section of the Pu’u Anahulu Game Management Area will be further protected with a 350-acre fence to exclude hoofed animals. The project will include barriers to ensure continuous access. The funds will also support the planting of native species and the elimination of weeds. Invasive plants are invading native vegetation habitat, including seven threatened plant species, some with fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild.

By improving the health of these forests, the state said the project will lead to increased carbon sequestration and freshwater supplies, clearer ocean waters, and the perpetuation of these plants and landscapes as culturally valuable resources. important.

“This project is the result of coordinated planning between the military and neighboring private landowners, nonprofits, and state and federal agencies,” said Kapua Kawelo, head of natural resources at the garrison of the US Army in Hawaii. “The state, Kamananui Ranch and Kaala Ranch will provide funding and in-kind support to prevent wildfires from climbing up the mountain and damaging our rare dry forest plants.

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