State and federal agencies signed a partnership today that will help private Forest Stewardship, landowners and managers conserve forestry land across Hawai'i.
"Through this agreement, we will build a partnership of trust and collaboration that is critical in sustaining our unique forest lands and watersheds," said Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairperson William Aila, Jr. "This will promote local job growth in our forest products industry and contribute to the sustainability of our island communities."
The agreement, formally called a Joint Forestry Memorandum of Understanding, includes the following agencies: DLNR, Hawai'i Association of Conservation Districts (HACD), Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Leaders of these agencies signed the agreement at a press conference in Governor Neil Abercrombie's office today.
"This is a renewed commitment for collaboration among natural resource agencies in Hawai'i," said Randy Moore, U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Forester. "This strengthens our ability to address issues across boundaries in an all-lands approach."
In Hawai'i, these agencies provide a variety of assistance programs to private landowners and forest producers, including the Forest Stewardship Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, Environmental Quality Incentive Program, and Conservation Reserve Enchantment Program (CREP). Currently, many forest landowners who are prospectively eligible for forestry assistance have been underserved primarily due to limited forestry expertise or limited financial support for programs.
The agreement will strengthen cooperation for the delivery of forestry-related conservation assistance to private landowners and managers of the land. The agreement does not call for any additional funding for any agency; instead this collaboration will allow for the partners to use existing funds to deliver programs more efficiently.
"We want to help every person who wants to protect our environment and natural resources," Governor Abercrombie said. "This partnership will empower people to be good stewards of our land now and for future generations."
One example of a person who has benefitted from assistance programs includes John Lindelow, of Ahu Lani Sanctuary on Mauna Kea on Hawai'i Island. Through current federal-state conservation programs, Mr. Lindelow has planted Koa and other native Hawaiian trees and converted 20 acres of pastureland to native forest land by improving water and soil quality.
"Forests make rivers. Our vision is to bring back the native forests, and the resulting permanent streams, that used to exist in our ahupua'a on the North Slope of Mauna Kea," Mr. Lindelow said. "By getting involved with Conservation Reserve Enchantment Program, we now have great relationships with NRCS, FSA, DLNR, and the local watershed partnerships. I am excited to see future efforts to reforest the land; this partnership will help to clear a path for those individuals wanting to get involved."
The agreement comes as a result of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill), which called for specific attention to the need for forestry assistance to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America's private working lands. National agencies began asking state agencies through these formal agreements to collaborate to ensure that conservation assistance is available.
"We are excited about the opportunity to work with our partners at the local level, to promote forestry and watershed protection. Each of our partners will provide unique expertise and resources. HACD will provide locally based knowledge and community support to enhance this statewide program," said Wesley Nohara, President of the Hawai'i Association of Conservation Districts.
"We are honored to be a partner in this significant opportunity to support our forest land stewards with federal programs and funds available through the Farm Bill," said Lawrence Yamamoto, Director of NRCS in the Pacific Islands Area.