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02/05/2024 – NEW PROTECTIONS FOR WEST MAUI WATERSHEDS SUPPORT BOTH HUMAN AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH

(HONOLULU) — New protection for watershed forests in West Maui should result in healthier forests and cleaner, more abundant water downstream.

New fencing to keep invasive, hoofed animals out of key watershed forests was installed by the Mauna Kahālāwai Watershed Partnership in collaboration with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the privately-owned Puʻu Kukui Watershed Preserve. Funding for the project included more than $700,000 to DLNR from the Hawaiʻi Department of Health Polluted Runoff Control Program, which is supported by Section 319 of the Federal Clean Water Act, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. The project highlights the mutually beneficial goal of enhancing human health and environmental health through watershed protection.

Installation of new fencing, as well as upgrades to older fences, took place within the Puʻu Kukui Watershed Preserve and TNC’s Kapunakea Preserve, including the watersheds of Honokōwai, Kahana, Honokahua and Honolua. Fencing to prevent entry by invasive hoofed animals is the first step to protecting priority watershed forests, which are the only origin of fresh water in Hawaiʻi. This protection allows native plants, including rare species, to thrive, increases water recharge, and decreases erosion and potential health risks for downstream users. The water that travels through this area eventually flows into a priority management area for the protection of Hawaiʻi’s coral reefs, which can be smothered by large amounts of sediment in runoff.

Puʻu Kukui Watershed Preservelocated on the west side of Mauna Kahālāwai, is one of the largest privately owned nature preserves in Hawaiʻi. The preserve is one of the most pristine and intact habitats in Hawaiʻi, and one of the wettest spots on earth, averaging nearly 400 inches of rain per year. The area is collaboratively managed by staff at the preserve, landowner Maui Land & Pineapple Co., and DLNR, with support from TNC and the Living Pono Project. Though previous projects had addressed the Kahana and Honolua watershedsnew work under this project now provides a contiguous fence line, resulting in greater protection of water resources.

Kapunakea Preservelocated in the Honokōwai watershed, is managed by DLNR and TNC and is home to 11 different natural communities and 24 rare and endangered species. Project funds were used to support fencing and management activities aimed at protecting biodiversity, cultural resources, and water resources.

“Building these long-needed sections of fence helped us solidify and renew the protection we can offer our mauna,” said Chris Brosius, program manager for the Mauna Kahālāwai Watershed Partnership. I am so thankful to the Department of Health, our partners, and especially our staff for their hard work on this project. These were some of the hardest sections to fence on the mountain and required advanced skills in building and rappelling, and a ton of grit. It’s been years in the making and we are excited to have completed the project.

This project also helps advance the West Maui Ridge to Reef (R2R) Initiative, a holistic approach across multiple organizations to protect coral reefs in West Maui. Keeping the upper watershed clear of invasive deer, pigs, and other hoofed animals is critical in maintaining vegetative cover and reducing erosion and sedimentation that can impact nearshore reefs. Healthier forests in this area may also help produce more fresh water and reduce future symptoms of drought.

 

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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR) 

 

Photographs – attached

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Dan Dennison

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