One hundred years ago, Hawaii was on the verge of losing all of its forests to introduced animals. Public and private partnerships were developed in order to restore and protect Hawaii’s forested uplands. They were successful in their endeavors: millions of acres of forests were replanted and protected. This Forest Action Plan continues that tradition of protecting our forests and urban trees, which are essential for maintaining water quality, unique biodiversity, native Hawaiian culture, and the high quality of life enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
Our most serious threat to our upland forests and urban trees is the negative impact from introduced plants, animals, invertebrates and disease. Managing invasive species, along with reducing human impacts and protecting watersheds, are key elements of forest health in Hawaii today. To protect forest resources, both area-based and species-based collaboration programs have been implemented. The area-based programs follow a model of identifying landowners who manage a common area, often linked by watersheds or other geographic features. By working across borders the landowners can achieve effective management providing landscape-scale benefits for habitat, watersheds and perpetuating cultural traditions. Area-based invasive species management is an integral component of native forest restoration.
Native ecosystems in Hawaii are not adaptive to wildfire. Except in active volcanic areas, fire is not a part of the natural life cycle of native Hawaiian ecosystems, and only a few native species are able to regenerate after fire. Wildfires are occurring with increasing frequency due in large part to the introduction of non-native fire-adapted grass species. Wildfires in Hawaii place communities at risk, destroy irreplaceable cultural resources, cost taxpayers money, negatively impact drinking water supplies and human health, increase soil erosion, impact near shore and marine resources, and destroy native species and native ecosystems. Wildfire Priority Landscapes in our Forest Action Plan consist of any land that include communities at risk from wildfire and lands where DOFAW is the primary responder.
Water is our most precious resource, and healthy forests are essential for maintaining water quality and quantity. Our upland forests, urban areas, coastline and near shore environment are all closely linked both spatially and culturally. Hawaiian watersheds are unique; they are small in area, prone to flash flooding from tropical storms, and discharge directly into the ocean. We developed our Action Plan to compliment and reinforce the missions of our many partners working on various aspects of water resources management. We were assisted in great measure by the agencies and individuals of the Ocean Resources Management Plan Working Group. Our Action Plan clearly articulates our role in managing the forests wherever they occur in the watershed, whether up in the mountains, embedded in our urban areas, or along the coastal zone. In doing so, we have a renewed respect for the wisdom embodied in the Native Hawaiian land stewardship system, called the ahupua`a system. Collectively, our plans strive to manage the entire watershed, or ahupua`a, in a holistic manner. Water unites the ahupua`a, and healthy forests are an essential component of that system.