DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
PETER T. YOUNG, CHAIRPERSON
Phone: (808) 587-0401
Fax: (808) 587-0390
For Immediate Release:
DLNR Implements Removal Of Hazardous Trees As Prelude
WAILUKU -- In the aftermath of one of the most devastating wildfires to have occurred for many decades in Hawaii -- burning 2,300 acres in the Kula Forest Reserve between January 23-February 5, 2007 -- the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is carrying out a program to remove hazardous trees and implement a major reforestation plan.
After the fire was under control, DLNR closed the Kula Forest Reserve, and Polipoli Springs State Park, including Waipoli access road, to all activities due to concerns for public safety from burned trees that were falling or hazardous, and to ensure that smoldering spots were extinguished. DLNR has since been working in the area to mitigate these hazards by inspecting and removing hazardous trees, repairing trail and road grades and initiating fence repair work.
DLNR now estimates that the Waipoli access road can be made safe and the reserve reopened for public access by the beginning of July.
DLNR’s Division of State Parks will then resume issuing permits for the cabin at Polipoli Springs State Park The park cabin was unharmed, thanks to a fire safety zone around it that had been created for just this purpose.
“We want to remind the public that we are dealing with a large area of dead standing trees and burned ground cover where the environmental impact has been severe. We know that people have been calling to ask when they can go back in. We are asking for the community’s patience while we carry out this first phase of the forest recovery work. We have a big job ahead of us for recovery that we are eager to undertake,” said Peter Young, DLNR chairperson.
Wildfires leave the land vulnerable to soil erosion, destroy or degrade habitat for many plant and animal species, create a public nuisance through the presence of partially burned or hazardous trees, and create unsafe conditions for public access.
Forest restoration measures will aid in the prevention of long term soil erosion and nuisance abatement through the removal of hazardous trees resulting from wildfire.
“Mitigating the severe impacts of the upper Waiohuli forest fire presents many challenges and opportunities for our department to restore the forest environment over decades, and apply new concepts for sustainable management,” said Young.
“The scope of our activities right now involves salvage recovery of lumber and woody biomass from dead or dying trees to control remaining fire hazards and provide a fire break corridor along forest reserve roads and trails. It includes restoration of fence, road and trail infrastructure. And will call for intensive restoration efforts at a scale that has not occurred on public lands in Hawai‘i for over 25 years. Down the line we are hoping to get the public’s help.” he said.
Emergency funding is necessary to facilitate salvage recovery of lumber and woody biomass from dead or dying trees to control remaining fire hazards; restore fence and road infrastructure; and carry out intensive reforestation.
DLNR has requested and Governor Lingle recommended to the Legislature, an increase in its fiscal year 2007-2009 biennium operating budget to mitigate public safety hazards and restore critical ecosystem functions of the Kula Forest Reserve. The increase of $2.64 million in fiscal year 2008 will go to implement hazard reduction for forest site preparation and tree planting on 1,800 acres.
The increase in the fiscal year 2007-09 operating budget will enable DLNR to plant and protect over 250,000 tree seedlings that are required to replace the destroyed forest at Kula Forest Reserve.
DLNR concurrently requested an emergency transfer of $1.84 million from general funds to supplement its depleted firefighting contingency fund for the remainder of fiscal year 2007 and to address immediate public safety issues and reforestation actions.
Since July 1, 2006, state and county firefighters have fought 17 wildfires on four islands, which damaged or destroyed approximately 18,436 acres of land, thereby exhausting funds for fighting wildfires. The National Weather Service has forecast that Hawaii should expect drier than normal weather this year, which significantly increases the risk of wildfires in Hawaii.
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