ORDER ESTABLISHES HAWAII INVASIVE SPECIES COUNCIL
Governor Cayetano has signed an Executive Order establishing the Hawaii Invasive Species Council (HISC) in recognition of the urgent need to protect Hawaii's natural resources and economy as well as the health and quality of life of Hawaii residents and visitors from invasive alien pests.
Invasive species are alien plants and animals considered likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Invasive species are characterized by the ability to grow quickly, have large numbers of young and spread easily to new areas, out-competing and replacing existing plants, animals or ecosystems.
"Hawaii is experiencing a massive onslaught of invasive alien pests, at a rate of about 2 million times the natural rate of introductions," said Division of Forestry and Wildlife Invasive Species Coordinator Mindy Wilkinson. "What makes this so threatening is that the natural ."
HISC's priority task will be to provide policy-level direction and planning for combating harmful invasive species infestations throughout the state. The HISC will take the necessary steps to prevent the introduction of others that may be potentially harmful. It will foster and support existing approaches to pest management and prevention such as the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS) and the Invasive Species Committees on each island.
The members of HISC will include a representative from the Governor's office and the chairs from the Department of Agriculture, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Department of Business and Economic Development and Tourism, Department of Health, Department of Transportation, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and the President of the University of Hawaii, with other members of government, profit and non-profit sectors invited to participate by consensus of the Council.
HISC is designated as a 2-year, temporary council that will extend to the next administration, which will provide the stability and framework for the types of policy changes necessary to protect Hawaii from the constant threats posed by invasive pests. Its work will be coordinated with the National Invasive Species Council in Washington D.C.
"Invasive species prevention and control is a bipartisan/non-political issue," stated Michael Buck, who administers the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife and is a member of the National Invasive Species Council. "This is one of the many areas of our lives that requires carefully planned protection, and it is something that every government, business and individual has to deal with."
"Currently CGAPS is developing a plan for how to effectively approach alien species issues in Hawaii," reported Buck. "The Hawaii plan is modeled after the National Invasive Species plan which has proven invaluable in identifying cross-cutting budgets, filling in the gaps in America's protection from pest species, and identifying areas for more effective cooperation."
Invasive species such as Miconia (Miconia calvescens), a tree native to Central America, but now present on the Big Island, Maui, Oahu and Kauai have created significant problems in Hawaii water shed areas. It has been the subject of a large scale eradication campaign since 1995. Other plants that have caused serious damage include fountain grass which is highly flammable when dry and has resulted in the accidental burning of large areas of rare dry land forest.
One invasive pest that is not yet present in Hawaii is the Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA Solenopsis invicta), which costs $1 billion in damage annually in the state of Texas alone, and causes 33,000 people to seek medical attention per year in S. Carolina. "Unless we greatly improve our prevention program, including initiation of early detection efforts, we will soon have to deal with RIFA on a grand scale." Stated Ellen VanGelder, an invasive species strategy specialist with the USGS-BRD's Haleakala Field Station on Maui. "RIFA has gotten past some of the best pest prevention programs in the world, so we need to do better."
"HISC is a necessary step towards a coordinated effort. This kind of high-level support will finally help get the necessary prevention measures passed. It is difficult and expensive to control a pest species once it has arrived—and many times we cannot repair the damage a pest species caused once it is established. The only answer is to stop these organisms from getting in," said Wilkinson.
# # #