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Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Wednesday, June 28, 2023

A blessing on Wednesday at the U.H. Hilo site of the new USGS facility that will  replace the one destroyed on the edge of
Kīlauea caldera. It will be the location of Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center.
 Photo from U.H. Hilo

CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW USGS HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY AND PACIFIC ISLAND ECOSYSTEMS RESEARCH CENTER was celebrated Wednesday. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Geological Survey Director David Applegate joined federal, state, local and University of Hawai'i leaders to launch the new facility to monitor volcanoes and support conservation science. The site is University of Hawai'i at Hilo campus. It will replace HAVO's facility that was irreparably damaged by the 2018 eruption on the edge of Kīlauea caldera in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.
Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland met
with U.H. Hilo students on Wednesday. Photo from U.H. Hilo
     The Secretary of the Interior said, "Partnership and collaboration are at the heart of everything we do. I’m so excited about the collaborations that will be formed in this facility between USGS scientists and personnel, the brilliant faculty and the students who have already accomplished so much. As we celebrate this facility today, we celebrate the enduring relationship it represents for the Department of the Interior and the community at large, as well as and the benefits this partnership will bring long after our time doing this important work is done.”
    The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory monitors and assesses hazards from active volcanoes and earthquakes in Hawai‘i, providing science for emergency managers, scientists, and local communities.
    USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center conducts research to support management and conservation of biological resources in Hawaiʽi and other Pacific locations. This includes scientific studies of imperiled species, invasive species, and plant diseases such as Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death.
Rendering of new USGS HAVO and Ecosystem Research
Center on the campus of U.H. Hilo.
    The USGS Director said, “We selected this location because of its unique qualities and partnership opportunities. One quality in particular that is critical to our future success is access to a very precious resource: students who can become our next-generation workforce, helping bring science to bear on some of the most challenging issues facing our nation and the planet.”
    Bonnie D. Irwin, Chancellor of the University of Hawai‘i – Hilo, said, “UH Hilo has a long and rewarding relationship with the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center, and I am excited for the additional opportunities their presence on campus will have for research partnerships and student internships. Working side-by-side with professionals in the field is an invaluable complement to the education students receive at our university.” 
    Construction of the facility is estimated to be completed late 2025.
Federal funding is released to work toward prevention of extinction of Hawai'i's Native Forest Birds.
Photo from state Division of Forestry & Wildlife

THE U.S. SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR ANNOUNCED $16 million will be deployed to prevent the imminent extinction of Hawai'i Forest Birds. Sec. Deb Haaland revealed the funding on Tuesday in her opening address to the Hawai'i Conservation Alliance's annual Conference in Honolulu, which runs through Thursday.
    The Conference is attended by numerous organizations with a large presence in Kaʻū including Three Mountain Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, Hawai'i Wildlife Fund and Kamehameha Schools. Ulupono Initiative and agencies with a presence here, such as the National Park Service, USGS, NOAA, US Fish & Wildlife Service, state Department of Land & Natural Resources, University of Hawai'i and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands also attend. Those who run the endangered captive bird program in Keauhou at Volcano and indigenous scholars and practitioners attend and are among the speakers,
     The federal funding announced by Haaland, herself the first indigenous person to lead the Department of the Interior, will support a new Hawaiian Forest Bird Conservation Keystone Initiative, which was unveiled as part of Department of Interior's Restoration & Resilience Framework. The Framework is guiding $2 billion in investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to restore lands and waters and advance climate resilience. 
Read the abstracts, learn more at https://www.hawaiiconservation.org/conference/2023-conservation-conference/
    The  Secretary of the Interior said, “Hawaiian Forest Birds are a national treasure and represent an irreplaceable component of our natural heritage. Birds like the ‘I’iwi, Kiwikiu and ‘Akikiki are found nowhere else in the world and have evolved over millennia to adapt to the distinct ecosystems and habitats of the Hawaiian Islands." Haaland said that through the Investing in America agenda, "we are working collaboratively with the Native Hawaiian Community and our partners to protect Hawaiian Forest Birds now and for future generations.”
    An example of the decline in Hawaiian Forest Birds: Historically, there were more than 50 species of honeycreepers in Hawaiʻi. That number is down to 17,
Secretary of the Interior Deb
Haaland announced $16 million to
help prevent extinction of Hawaiian
Forest Birds.
due to an array of threats that have caused significant declines in their populations. "Habitat loss, invasive species, climate change and disease, such as avian malaria spread by mosquitoes, are urgent challenges impacting bird species across the Hawaiian Islands," said a statement from the Interior Department.
    In December 2022, the Interior Department released a Strategy for Preventing the Extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds. The strategy provides a shared vision among the Department’s bureaus for a comprehensive approach to prevent the extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds by applying a science-based approach, various conservation techniques, and Native Hawaiian biocultural knowledge and practices.     "This approach is rooted in close coordination with federal and non-federal partners to leverage resources and expertise to meet common goals......Without this funding, experts assessed that two species could go extinct within the next year."
    The Hawaiian Forest Bird Conservation Keystone Initiative includes its list of the following objectives:
    Captive Care: Expanding captive care programs and facilities for bird species most at risk of imminent extinction.
    Invasive Mosquito Eradication: Implementing cutting-edge strategies to control and eradicate invasive mosquitoes that spread avian malaria, which has ravaged Hawaiian forest bird populations in recent years.
    Establish New Bird Populations Through Translocation: Relocating new populations of bird species to higher elevation refugia within the Hawaiian Islands where avian malaria is not yet present will help prevent further extinctions.
    Research and Monitoring: Conducting extensive scientific research and monitoring to ensure mosquito control efforts are effective and enhancing our knowledge on mosquito and forest bird biology. This knowledge will inform more effective conservation strategies.
    Native Hawaiian Community Engagement: Actively engaging Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and experts through consultation, knowledge sharing, protocol and traditional practices at each major stage of a conservation action. This not only contributes to the overall forest bird recovery efforts but also sustains the Native Hawaiian Community’s biocultural relationship with the forest birds.
    Read the Department of Interior Strategy for Preventing the Extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds at https://www.fws.gov/media/doi-strategy-preventing-extinction-hawaiian-forest-birds-508

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