At a meeting earlier this month, the County Council's Water Resources Committee received presentations regarding watershed management practices and policies from representatives of the organizations doing the work in the field every day for the benefit of Maui County's residents, native species and natural environment.
Represented agencies included the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens Inc., Maui Invasive Species Committee, The Nature Conservancy's East Molokai Watershed Partnership and Waikamoi Preserve, East Maui Watershed Partnership, West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership, Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership, and Pu'u Kukui Watershed Partnership. One of the presenters provided an apt observation for this topic, quoting Baba Dioum: "In the end, we will only conserve what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."
According to a report at the meeting, 60 billion gallons of surface water accumulate each year on Maui. The task for policymakers and concerned members of the public is to ensure that precious source is protected and put to beneficial use.
Maui County's rain forests are among the most distinctive landscapes in the world and provide habitat for rare birds such as the 'i'iwi and the amakihi. These endangered creatures are increasingly threatened by loss of native forests and ungulate damage.
Ungulates are hooved animals such as deer, pigs and goats. Current pig captures are at the lowest levels in The Nature Conservancy's history, which may show the population is being more effectively controlled through the use of advanced equipment such as thermal surveys and cameras and GPS-tracking devices.
Fencing is a simple and effective means of keeping reserve areas protected from ungulate damage, as seen in before-and-after aerial photos presented to the committee. Native flora thrive in protected areas.
Weeds and unwanted plants compete with native plants and threaten the ecological quality of our preserves. Some weeds may also pose fire hazards during dry conditions.
Helicopter monitoring of jagged, uneven terrain, especially in the West Maui Mountains, has proven to be a good way to collect new data.
More than the presented ecological challenges, the biggest threat of our watershed conservation is lack of awareness. I would like the public to know how much effort it takes to make sure that clean, fresh water comes out of the faucet every time one turns it on.
It was apparent with all the presentations that we have members of the community who have made watershed conservation and protection their life mission. I extend my deepest mahalo to the management, staff and volunteers of the partner organizations for their invaluable contribution in preserving the quality of our natural resources.
It is because of their passion and dedication for their work that Maui County is truly no ka oi.
If you have questions or testimony you would like the committee to consider, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. My office is also available to direct your inquiries on volunteer opportunities to any of the watershed management partners.
* Michael P. Victorino holds the County Council seat for the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu residency area. He is the chair of the Water Resources Committee. "Chair's 3 Minutes" is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.