The Maui News

MAUI, Hawaii (Jan. 5) - As anyone on a Neighbor Island might expect, it took a major problem on Oahu before state officials seemed to recognize the need to actively combat the threat of alien species in Hawaii.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources - the legal guardian of the islands' natural environment - plans to ask the Legislature for $5 million dollars to fight the arrival of new alien species and those that have already gained a foothold in the islands.

Director Peter Young said a problem with an alien weed at Lake Wilson on Oahu "is one of the reasons fighting invasive species is a priority for the DLNR right now."

Those who care about Maui's native environment have been arguing for money to fund the fight against alien species such as miconia, which has killed whole native forests in Tahiti, the coqui frog, fountain grass, fire weed, to name a few of the problems.

Environmentalists probably cheered when Young said, "the best dollar spent on invasive species is the one spent to prevent something from coming in."

The state plans a major increase in the size of the Kahului Airport and may now begin to dial in a facility for checking arriving cargo and baggage for alien invaders of the global kind. A major argument against increasing the length of Kahului Airport's runway - which is now back in the planning stage - is the lack of alien species control measures.

An effective way to spend some of that $5 million would be to renew the highly successful environmental work force. Begun as a make-work program following Sept. 11, 2001, the work force proved effective fighting dengue fever and murine typhus problems.

The program gave maximum benefit for each buck spent by contracting the administration to a University of Hawaii agency. The workforce also proved popular with those involved on the ground; there are many Mauians who would love to work for the environment and find it difficult to earn a living wage.

The 2004 Legislature should consider making an environmental work force part of the fight against alien species.

In many cases the campaign against alien species boils down to one man or woman taking care of a small part of the larger problem.

January 6, 2004

The Maui News: www.mauinews.com


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