One Million Acres of Hawaii Watersheds to Be Conserved

VOLCANO, Hawaii, May 27, 2008 (ENS) – A new partnership of public and private landowners has been created to protect watersheds and natural resources across more than one million acres on Mauna Loa, Kilauea and Hualalai on the island of Hawaii.

The Three Mountain Alliance watershed partnership will consist of nine partners who will cooperate under a Memorandum of Understanding and a recently completed management plan.

Three Mountain Alliance partners include the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and Department of Public Safety, the National Park Service at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center, Kamehameha Schools, the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, and the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Three Mountain Alliance will focus on protection of native habitat and species and will benefit the community by managing upland, forested portions of the watershed that provide essential groundwater, water filtration, and flood reduction.

The Three Mountain Alliance Management Plan summarizes joint goals and programs such as habitat and watershed protection, compatible economic use, compatible recreation and ecotourism, education, awareness and public outreach, and cultural resource protection.

“Partnerships such as the Three Mountain Alliance are the most effective way to address threats to the landscape such as invasive weed species that occur across land ownership boundaries,” said Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “The park is able to accomplish much more with partners than we could on our own by sharing scarce staff and resources to accomplish joint objectives.”

The Ka‘u Forest Reserve on the island
of Hawaii (Photo by Christine Ogura)

Laura Thielen, who chairs the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said, “Land-based activities have a direct effect on nearshore waters and corals and fisheries. For this reason, partnerships are critical to support healthy ecosystems, on land and in the ocean.”

“Coordinated on-the-ground management of threats such as invasive animals, weeds and fire is critically needed to maintain healthy watersheds on the slopes of Kilauea, Mauna Loa and Hualalai to sustain the future quality and quantity of fresh water and benefit Hawaii’s people as well as native plants and animals,” said Roger Imoto, the Division of Forestry and Wildlife’s branch manager for Hawaii Island.

Kamehameha Schools is the largest private landowner currently involved in the partnership, but other agencies and large, private landowners with a management interest in the landscape will be invited to join the Three Mountain Alliance.

Peter Simmons, Kamehameha Schools regional assets manager, points out that “large landowners such as Kamehameha Schools have a responsibility to show leadership in caring for their lands because these areas are critically important to the life, health and well being of the native Hawaiian ecosystems and human communities that inhabit them.”

A unique aspect to the Three Mountain Alliance is the involvement of the state’s Kulani Correctional Facility and its inmates in conservation work such as fencing and native reforestation.

“The Department of Public Safety and Kulani Correctional Facility are very excited to participate with this innovative partnership through our inmate programs such as the conservation workline and the native plant horticulture program,” said Beryl Iramina, warden at Kulani Correctional Facility.

“By participating in the partnership, our inmates receive education and work training opportunities,” she said. “Inmates can also give back to the community through our community service programs helping Three Mountain Alliance partners protect and restore important watershed lands.”

The Three Mountain Alliance plans for the near future include initiating an education and restoration project in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Keauhou Ranch lands with local students and teachers using native plants grown by Kulani inmates.

The Alliance intends to develop a watershed management plan for the upland forests of Kau and Kapapala with the community. There are plans for control of wild cattle in several state-owned forest reserves, protective fencing of dry forests in upland Kona, and joint invasive weed control projects.

The Three Mountain Alliance is one of nine partnerships throughout the state that are members of the Hawaii Association of Watershed Partnerships. The Three Mountain Alliance Management Plan can be found at the Hawaii Association of Watershed Partnerships Website

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