Hearings and Business Meetings
Ms. Julie Leialoha
Manager, Big Island Invasive Species Committee
Testimony of Julie Leialoha - Manager
Big Island Invasive Species Committee
Field Hearing on Invasive Species
Subcommittee on National Parks
U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
August 9, 2005, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
As the Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC) Manager, I am responsible for ensuring that our program complies with our strategic plan. A plan that was developed with the aid of all of our participating partners, including staff of the National Park Service who have been instrumental in developing control strategies of invasive species within its boundaries. BIISC is a voluntary partnership of private citizens, community organizations, businesses, land owners, and government agencies such s the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service, Institute of Pacific Island Forestry, the National Park Service, the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, the University of Hawaii, the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii, and the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, united to address invasive species issues on the island of Hawaii. Partnerships of this nature are imperative in today’s complex world of dealing with invasive species. Others have already pointed out the tremendous influx of invasive organisms we face everyday. How do we fully address the impacts of invasive species on our natural environment, cultural heritage significant to Hawaii, as well as meet economic goals and growth of our islands. I refer back to partnerships such as BIISC.
Though agencies may have boundaries, invasive species have no boundaries and very few environmental limitations. BIISC along with the other island invasive species programs was formed to fill a void in assisting other agencies in its war on invasive species. We strive to avoid the creation of a new bureaucratic structure, and instead focus on working with existing organizations and agencies to achieve goals. We are one of the few agencies that deal’s with invasive species on private property while also assisting partner agencies, such as the State Department of Agriculture, Department of Land and Natural Resources and the National Park Service. Our program priorities are organized around a key list of “target” invasive species, a hit list of sorts. This hit list is intended to identify plants and organisms that pose a serious threat to Hawaii so control measures can be organized. The main goal is for effective pest prevention before it becomes a serious problem requiring enormous resources. We call this early detection and rapid response. Like all the other ISC, we prefer to measure success in terms of pest infestations prevented, contained or eradicated. The only way we can do this, is to work with our partners. Like any other program, our resources are limited. We are happy to assist our partners when we can, and often request services of our partners as well. Most of the federal lands on the island of Hawaii are identified as “high resource value” lands. Lands immediately adjacent to federal lands are also considered high priority for protection purposes. BIISC spends a portion of our financial resources to ensure that invasive species stay out of high value resource zones like Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and would like to see park service employees involved in these control efforts as well. Invasive species will breach federal lands from the outside and vice-versa. All available resources should be utilized to attack the problem as a whole. We should not allow political boundaries to dictate invasive species control efforts. Obviously for this reason, the islands invasive species committees were formed to fill that gap. However, we simply cannot do it alone. It is imperative that our Federal brethren be authorized to work with its partners including fiscal expenditures outside of its jurisdictional boundaries. Though scientific partnerships help programs like BIISC create solid control efforts on the ground, we lack the staffing resources many of these organisms require to make a dent. Combining efforts makes the most sense. Our goal is not only to work with our partner agencies, but create community cooperators to help control targeted species within their own communities. Community partnerships are also instrumental in invasive species control efforts.
Our community partners have been very involved in invasive species control efforts, particularly with controlling coqui frogs, which has been the focus point of invasive species lately. I call it the flavor or the month, since there are other invasive species that require the same amount of attention this little frog is currently getting. There are other threats that pose a much larger problem and they don’t make any noise, such as the little red fire ant, that can blind domestic animals, which many of us believe will be a much larger problem than coqui, or a new species of mosquito recently identified on the Big Island known to be a carrier of west nile virus.
The question was posed of what invasive species poses the greatest threat to the National Park. For Hawaii Island, I would have to say coqui frog. This tiny frog is now zapping a tremendous amount of BIISC resources. Breeding populations exist on the boundaries of this park and the march continues, as there have been confirmed captures of this pest within the parks boundaries. The next species could be the Little Fire Ant, or perhaps the stinging nettle cattepillar, or a host of invasive plant species. The list is endless. The key is to identify the threat before it becomes a problem, coordinate a rapid control response, and utilize all existing means to eradicate the threat immediately.