STATEMENT OF DONALD REESER, HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK VOLUNTEER, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING OVERSIGHT OF THE PROBLEM OF INVASIVE SPECIES ON PARKLANDS.
August 9, 2005
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to provide my perspective on the National Park Service’s battle against alien species. I am recently retired from the federal government, having served at Muir Woods National Monument, Park Naturalist 1965-1968, Ranger/Resource Manager at Hawaii Volcanoes N. P. 1968-1979, Redwood National Park, Chief of Resources Management and Watershed Rehabilitation, 1979-1988 and Haleakala National Park, Superintendent, 1988-2005.
When I transferred to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, in 1968, there was concern by biologists for the impacts to native biological resources by the thousands of feral goats and pigs that roamed the park; however there was little support by the public or higher officials at the time for necessary action. Programs to control these animals by the National Park Service (NPS) were largely perfunctory. By documenting feral animal impacts and demonstrating success in excluding feral animals from large fenced areas, public perceptions and understanding gradually changed through the years. Discredited was the widespread notion that control of feral animals was enough to save native species. Finally acknowledged, was the reality that total exclusion of feral animals is necessary to achieve native ecosystem preservation and restoration.
In the 1963 Leopold Report on Wildlife Management in National Parks, one sentence summed up to me what the policy was to be pursued: “A visitor who climbs a mountain in Hawaii, ought to see mamane trees and silverswords, not goats.”
Since the early 1970s, the National Park Service has been a leader in ecosystem preservation. Feral animals in Hawaii national parks are being effectively excluded by internal and boundary fences. Park interpretive programs emphasize ecosystem preservation and the problems associated with invasive species. Resource management divisions, with supporting United States Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division research assistance, have been established, dedicated to ecosystem preservation and restoration. Active involvement with watershed partnerships is ongoing and crucial in addressing invasive issues adjacent to park boundaries. An Exotic Plant Management Team is assigned to host park, Haleakala, to help respond to the needs of several parks in Hawaii.
Park ecosystem preservation has come a long way since the 1970s in dealing with invasive species. Besides feral animals, we had a full plate of non-natives to deal with including rats, mongooses, faya tree, kahili ginger to name a few. However, today we have new invasive species such as coqui frogs, miconia and leaf hoppers. While resource managers worked on programs to deal with existing pests, new ones were arriving on the scene. Park managers now fear that the brown tree snake and red fire ant will soon be added to the control list.
Airports and harbors are the obvious pathways for new arrivals that threaten public health, agricultural crops and native ecosystems. On Maui, the NPS plays a proactive role in trying to affect change in the infrastructure and the scope of interdiction activities at Kahului Airport. NPS challenges to the airport improvement environmental compliance documentation, resulted in an alien species program requirement that was appended to the final record of decision. Risk assessments conducted by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture confirmed the validity of park concerns. Nevertheless, after nearly a decade of meetings and discussion among key agencies, there remains substantial resistance or apathy for the implementation of effective and adequately staffed interdiction programs at Kahului Airport where implementation of an alien species action plan was mandated. Recent legislation, sponsored by Congressman Ed Case, which would require the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to expand Federal efforts to prevent the introduction in Hawaii of non-native plants, animals, and plant and animal diseases, if enacted, may help achieve the needed changes at airports and harbors.
Harbors as an avenue for invasive species have not received the attention they deserve because they are long standing existing operations. However in the last year, a proposal for Superferries operating between islands has raised concerns for accelerating the spread of invasive species between islands. The NPS testified before the Maui County Council that the enormous increase of loaded vehicles entering Maui will cause adverse impacts to park ecosystems. Many of these vehicles aboard the superferries will be carrying invasive plant seeds such as miconia, fountain grass, as well as, insects, spreading them from sea level to 10,000 feet elevation. Probable impacts to a national park require analyses and mitigations under the National Environmental Protection Act. Hawaii Department of Transportation has declined to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.
National parks should be outstanding examples of ecosystem preservation and principal leaders in combating alien invasive species. Major challenges facing the NPS include: 1) dealing more aggressively and effectively with established invasive species using traditional methods, as well as, seeking and employing new biological controls, 2) gaining clear authority for targeting certain invasive species outside park boundaries rather than waiting to fight them in the park, and 3) preventing the establishment of new pests species in Hawaii.
Additional funding for invasive control and ecosystem restoration programs is an obvious need. Eroding park bases from inflation and mandated programs have made it tough for park managers to keep adequate funding in resource protection programs.
Special legislation, that makes it easier for the NPS to assist adjacent park partners in attacking ecosystem changing species such as miconia, is desperately needed. Guidelines for Recreational Fee Demonstration program revenues received at entrance stations and from commercial operations at national parks need to be liberalize for funding serious invasive species problems inside and on adjacent partnership lands.
Thank you, Senator Akaka, for your many years of support of funding for fencing and alien species control; the national parks are far better shape today because of your vision and commitment to the preservation of native Hawaiian plants and animals.