March 08, 2016

Hirono Presses Forest Service To Do More To Combat Rapid Ohia Death

Over 30,000 Acres On Hawaii Island Impacted

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Senator Mazie K. Hirono questioned U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Chief Thomas Tidwell on progress to combat Rapid Ohia Death at today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. Senator Hirono also called for robust funding for the USFS as Congress reviews the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget request. Rapid Ohia Death, first observed as impacting 15,000 acres of Hawaii Island’s Ohia forest in 2014, now has spread over 30,000 acres. 

“We depend on the expertise and what the Forest Service brings to the table,” said Senator Hirono during the hearing. “The Ohia makes up 80% of our native forests and is ecologically and culturally the most important native plant in Hawaii. On-the-ground personnel are trying to answer several critical questions about this disease, including transmission and resistance. We still need the resources to do the proper investigations and research.”

Chief Tidwell acknowledged collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and the University of Hawaii, and laid out the need to continue research into the cause of Rapid Ohia Death and eradication methods. Senator Hirono also thanked Chief Tidwell for the Forest Service’s commitment to Hawaii’s Collaborative Landscape Proposal, Island Forests at Risk.

The USFS Fiscal Year 2017 budget includes more than $32 million for invasive species research, $4 million for the Hoomau and Helemano Wilderness Area, and continued funding for Island Forests at Risk.

Click on the photo above to watch the full segment.