Hearings and Business Meetings

10:00 AM

Ms. Teya Penniman

Manager, Maui Invasive Species Committee












August 9, 2005





I am pleased to present testimony on the use of partnerships in Hawai?i to address the impacts of invasive species on our environment, economy and quality of life.  Hawai?i is an excellent forum to discuss invasive species, not only because of the wealth of resources at risk here, but also because of the innovative approach the Aloha State has developed.  As the Manager of the Maui Invasive Species Committee, I would like to highlight the importance of partnerships at all levels of our work.


Partnerships are the key to bridging jurisdictional and resource gaps.  Partnerships help tap the collective knowledge of local scientists, resource managers, and policy makers and focus their problem-solving abilities on the most pressing invasive species issues.  Partnerships help generate and leverage funding to get workers on the ground when government agencies may be unable to take direct action.  Partnerships help ensure that actions are coordinated, not duplicated, to maximize efficiency and ensure the wise use of limited resources.


1.         Effective Partnerships are Needed to Control Invasive Species

As is true throughout the 50 States and all U.S. territories, invasive species in Hawai?i know no boundaries.  When a species is found on private, county, state and federal lands, jurisdictional conflicts or uncertainty can arise, hindering efforts to quickly mount an effective response.  Additionally, for many natural resource agencies, addressing invasive species threats often falls into the category of extra – as opposed to primary – responsibilities.  At times, despite the best intentions of government agencies to cooperate on cross-boundary issues, significant jurisdictional and resource gaps exist, affecting our ability to detect and engage a coordinated response to invasive pests.

Given the plethora of potential targets affecting Hawai?i, knowing when to marshal and deploy appropriate resources requires having a clear set of decision criteria.  Without an existing system or infrastructure, critical response time can be lost.  Often, the public must be engaged in efforts to detect or control a target species.  Thus, ongoing education and public outreach efforts are essential to building and maintaining public support.  Yet, the public is susceptible to becoming war-weary, if too many or conflicting messages are broadcast about each new invasive pest to reach our shores.  Clearly, a means for coordinating efforts at the local level is needed in order to be effective at detecting and responding to invasive pest species. 

 2.        Partnerships in Hawai?i

In Hawai?i, on each of the major islands – Kaua?i, O?ahu, Maui, Moloka?i, and Hawai?i – an Invasive Species Committee (ISC) is working to prevent the establishment of new invasive species, control targeted incipient species, and educate and involve the public in prevention and control activities. On Maui, concerned local resource managers first began meeting in the early 1990’s to consider how to stop the spread of Miconia calvescens and other closely-related plants.  The group recognized the need to broaden the scope of activity and formed the Maui Invasive Species Committee in 1997.  The Committee secured funding to hire staff in 1999.  Today, we have nearly 30 staff members working to control targeted terrestrial plants and animals in the County of Maui. 


            MISC’s work has been possible only because of exemplary commitment from our partner agencies.  MISC’s partners include the following private landowners, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations:  the County of Maui; State of Hawaii, including the Department of Land & Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture; National Park Service; US Fish & Wildlife Service; USDA Forest Service; USDA Wildlife Services; US Department of Defense; and several other community-based companies and nonprofits, such as Maui Land & Pineapple Company, and The Nature Conservancy.    Financial support from these and other agencies and organizations, such as the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, has allowed us to make significant progress detecting and controlling a host of target species. 


However, MISC’s partners do much more than simply provide funding.  Local knowledge of natural resources and threats has been critical to MISC’s effectiveness.   Agency representatives, among the most knowledgeable in the state, if not the nation, meet bi-monthly to share information, evaluate potential target species, suggest management practices, and review progress.  Most of Maui’s committee members have been involved with MISC since its early beginnings, fourteen (14) years ago.


The existence of the Invasive Species Committees, along with their demonstrated ability to translate action plans into concrete results, was a significant factor in convincing the Hawai?i legislature and administration to dedicate $8 million in state funding for invasive species over the last two years.  Because the ISCs had the infrastructure to put more crew to work combating miconia, coqui frogs, pampas grass, and other identified pest species, it was possible to quickly demonstrate results from additional funding.  Additionally, because receipt of State funding was contingent upon generating matching funds from non-State sources, federal funding was crucial to securing these additional funds over the last two years. These funds supported four components of a state-wide strategy:  prevention, response & control, research & technology, and public outreach.


The Hawai?i model has practical applications nationwide.  Representatives from Hawai?i regularly participate in national workshops, review panels and symposia, including a recent workshop on pythons in the Everglades National Park.  MISC is collaborating with economists at the University of Hawai?i to apply cost/benefit analyses to management of the invasive weed, miconia. MISC staff is working to introduce local teachers to a Maui-based science curriculum developed under the leadership of Haleakala National Park.  Using this curriculum, students on Maui are learning to capture and identify ant species to help detect any incipient populations of fire ants.


Similar efforts to select and prioritize target species, evaluate ongoing activities, and share knowledge and resources are occurring across the state, on each island.  The Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS) provides an important statewide forum for invasive species issues.   These island-based partnerships along with CGAPS are helping to sustain a successful collaboration of private landowners, government agencies and nonprofits.


3.         The Role of Federal Partners

One of driving reasons for our work is to keep invasive pests out of the natural areas, including the spectacular Haleakala National Park, by surveying and controlling target species elsewhere on the island.  We frequently work in residential areas and at the interface of natural areas and rural lands, often in habitats that have already been largely altered.  Our crews rarely see the pristine habitats they are protecting.  Thus, our efforts, which are supported by state and county funds in addition to federal funds, provide significant benefits to federal resources, in particular, park resources.  As noted above, invasive species have no respect for political or jurisdictional boundaries.  Two of our primary target species, pampas grass and miconia, have been found within park boundaries.  Without continued vigilance, these species would flourish within the Park.    Allowing the National Park Service to use federal resources for work on invasive species outside park boundaries, as contemplated in the Natural Resources Protection Cooperative Agreement Act, S. 1288, is not only logical from a resource management perspective, but also equitable, from the perspective of shared responsibilities among partners. 


Other cooperative funding avenues are essential to maintain the progress we have made on pushing back the most threatening species on Maui and elsewhere in the islands.  The life history and sheer competitiveness of most invasive pests require a long-term commitment to the effort.  Continued and enhanced cost-share federal programs, such as the Cooperative Conservation Initiative, and the Federal Noxious Weed Bill, will be essential to ensuring on-the-ground success.  New funding sources are needed to address  species such as the coqui frog.


4.         Conclusion

            Effective partnerships are essential to detect and control the most serious invasive plant and animals threats, but are not adequate without other important components.  In addition to response and control, Hawai?i must be able to develop and implement meaningful prevention measures to stem the seemingly endless onslaught of new pests that are sapping our resources and decimating our irreplaceable natural treasures.  The Hawai?i Invasive Species Prevention Act, introduced in the House, would be a positive step in this direction by helping to reduce the risk of unwanted introductions to Hawai?i.  Continued efforts to find safe, host-specific biocontrol agents must continue to be supported.  In summary, innovative approaches are working in Hawai?i. The need for continued partnering and additional resources is critical.  Your vision, interest and support are crucial to our work.  Thank you for the opportunity to testify.