The interagency Hawaii Invasive Species Council, has launched a new website highlighting the growing role the council plays in cabinet-level coordination on invasive species issues in Hawaii.
The council is comprised of the directors or designees of the state departments of Land and Natural Resources, Agriculture, Health, Transportation, Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and the University of Hawaii.
The website, accessible directly at http://hisc.hawaii.gov or via the state’s upgraded hawaii.gov web portal, places new emphasis on the actions of the HISC, including resolutions, funded research reports and strategic plans.
“Collaboration across state departments has resulted in clear progress toward addressing the impacts of invasive species in the Islands,” said Gov. Neil Abercrombie. “The new HISC website, which is part of our state’s effort to expand the use of hawaii.gov as a resource for user-friendly information about government programs and services, provides greater opportunity for the public to join in this effort by learning more about what each and every one of us can do to protect Hawaii.”
The council was created in 2003, when the Hawaii State Legislature declared invasive species “the single greatest threat to Hawaii’s economy and natural environment and to the health and lifestyle of Hawaii’s people.”
The council’s statutory authority mandates identification of state funds available for invasive species prevention, control, outreach and research, and requires the council to coordinate the state’s position on invasive species issues and provide advice to the Governor and Legislature.
Since its inception, the council has approved more than $25 million in funding for qualified projects to help keep invasive plants, like miconia, and invasive animals, like the stinging little fire ant, from spreading throughout the state. The council’s new website better details how these funds have been spent, making final project reports and research results available for the entire eight-year history of the organization.
The council has made progress under the Abercrombie administration, with the direction of council co-chairs Russell Kokubun and William Aila and engagement by Gary Gill, Jesse Souki, Maria Gallo, and David Rodriguez. Since the induction of new council leadership in June 2011, the council has:
l Produced its first piece of legislation (a 2012 bill allowing state departments to adopt emergency rules in response to imminent threats to natural resources);
l Begun drafting administrative rules to fulfill its mandate to officially designate species that are invasive in Hawaii;
l Adopted five resolutions identifying priority concerns such as ohia rust, axis deer, albizia, and mosquitoes that carry infectious diseases;
l Supported the development of a regional Micronesian Biosecurity Plan that will minimize the risk of introductions of new invasive species from other areas of the Pacific, including the invasive brown tree snake;
l Provided funds that supported the first capture of axis deer on Hawaii Island, the first capture of a live mongoose on Kauai, and the first full-time coordinator to examine population management strategies for axis deer on Maui Island;
l Held its first Neighbor Island meeting on Maui in May 2012 to discuss growing populations of axis deer on Maui Island, and
l Coordinated the first Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Week in March 2013, which included a proclamation from Abercrombie, business and community leadership awards, and the promotion of 15 volunteer opportunities across the state.
The council has committed to providing more public education by utilizing its new website as a one stop shop for information on high-profile invasive species in Hawaii, recent news regarding invasive species, and detailed reports for all projects funded via the council. It supports the development of interagency response plans to enhance detection and response capabilities.
Other priorities for the council include better state and federal coordination on invasive species issues, support for biocontrol research, and response to invasive species on marine debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.
“Because invasive species have such a detrimental effect on critical things like our water and food security, we are committed to working across departments on this important issue,” said council co-chair William J. Aila Jr. “But we also need the public’s help, especially in spotting pests like snakes and other plants and animals that don’t belong in Hawaii. The new HISC website provides information on how to report a pest by phone or online.”