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Hirono Announces More Than $2 Million in USDA Funding to Support Kona Biodiversity, Wildlife Habitat

WASHINGTON, DC –Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) announced that the Kona Soil and Water Conservation District and seven partners have been awarded $2,028,572 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to boost biodiversity and support wildlife habitat for a variety of Hawaiian forest birds, including the akiapolaau, Hawaii akepa, and Hawaii creeper. The forest restoration efforts resulting from this project, titled “Innovation in Kona’s Upland Forests,” are estimated to sequester 30,000 tons of carbon over 20 years.

“Kona is home to some of the most spectacular wildlife in our state. Investments like this one from USDA build strong public-private partnerships that help keep our environment healthy and will make restoration efforts lasting, so that our keiki can enjoy Hawaii’s unique biodiversity well into the future,” Senator Hirono said.

The Kona project is one of 85 new projects announced today by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service as part of the agency’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), and will add to the currently active 366 RCPP projects across the country. The more than $300 million in new funding will support public-private partnerships that seek to address climate change, drought, soil health, wildlife habitat, and water quality. 

Senator Hirono is a strong supporter of federal programs that work with local stakeholders to protect sensitive ecosystems in Hawaii. This includes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) that over recent years has provided significant investments to Hawaii’s “Island Forests at Risk” collaborative landscape proposal. Funding for the proposal helped expand both Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island as well as Haleakala National Park on Maui. In addition, Senator Hirono introduced a bill late last year that directs the Forest Service to study, in partnership with state and community stakeholders, the feasibility of adding lands in Hawaii to the National Forest system. The Senator has also introduced legislation to protect native plant species across the country, including hundreds of threatened and endangered plants in Hawaii, and co-led a Senate resolution that named April 2021 Native Plant Month.