The Maui News

MAUI, Hawaii (Jan. 24) – Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa went to the state Legislature last week and asked for the money needed to eradicate miconia, a forest-killing alien plant, and to silence the ear-piercing shriek of the imported coqui frog.

Miconia has already smothered most of Tahiti’s native forest. It has become established in forests around Hana on Maui. It is a tenacious tree that leaves seeds to sprout long after the original vine has been destroyed.

The coqui made its way from Puerto Rico, where snakes control the population of the tiny frog, to Maui via the Big Island, where Mayor Harry Kim declared a county emergency in April but waited for federal assistance that never arrived. More than 150 Big Island communities are now infested by the coqui.

"I kick myself in the back every day for not getting started more aggressively" in eradicating the coqui, Kim said.

Based on estimates made by the Maui Invasive Species Committee, Arakawa said the coqui could be eradicated on Maui for a total of US$2 million. Eradicating miconia would cost US$2 million a year for a decade.

The presentation to the Legislature brought to mind an old proverb: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Or, in the case of alien species, spending a few dollars quickly is worth millions if the problem is ignored, as the state has a tendency to do with everything involving the environment, particularly if that environment is on a Neighbor Island.

A partial, quick-reaction solution to the problem of invasive species was created in 2001 and then abandoned. Although the Emergency Environmental Workforce, suggested originally by Maui Sen. J. Kalani English, was established as a make-work program in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, it proved itself in dealing with dengue fever mosquito-breeding sites and a later outbreak of murine typhus due to a population explosion of mice.

Administered by a private nonprofit organization, the Emergency Environmental Workforce was a relatively inexpensive program that qualified it as an "ounce of prevention." A re-established work force would be available for crisis situations and the ongoing effort to eradicate miconia, the coqui, fireweed, fountain grass and other invasive species.

January 26, 2005

The Maui News: www.mauinews.com

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