Army, Hawaii partner to protect watersheds
December 27, 2013
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Dec. 27, 2013) -- The Army and the state of Hawaii came together to transport nearly 200,000 pounds of fencing into the Ko'olau Mountains, as part of an airlift operation to protect Oahu's watersheds, Dec. 5.
Soldiers from the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, joined resources with the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii's Oahu Army Natural Resources Program, and the State of Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources' Natural Area Reserves staff to accomplish the mission.
The material will be used to build a 12-kilometer fence exclosure to protect 1,000 acres of native forest in the summit areas of the Ko'olau Mountains on State of Hawaii and Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate lands.
The steel fencing was hooked to a Chinook CH-47 helicopter and sling-loaded from Schofield Barracks to staging zones located in a remote area of the Poamoho Section of the Ewa Forest Reserve.
"The Chinook's capabilities allowed us to haul 17 times more material per trip than the contracted aircraft is able, saving time and money," said Kapua Kawelo, a biologist with the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Oahu Army Natural Resources Program. "As an added bonus, the Soldiers were able to exercise their sling-load skills."
The fencing project is being led by the DLNR, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, with support from the Army and other members of the Ko'olau Mountain Watershed Partnership. The majority of the funding for the $1 million project is provided by the "Rain Follows the Forest" initiative, with an additional $300,000 provided by the Army and $250,000 from the U.S. Forest Service.
"This is a critical location for watershed recharge to Oahu's Pearl Harbor aquifer that provides water to Oahu communities. Protecting priority watersheds from damage caused by hoofed animals is the first priority of the Rain Follows the Forest program," said Marigold Zoll, project lead, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, DLNR. "Fencing is the most feasible way to prevent these animals from trampling and devouring vegetation and reducing the spread of non-native invasive species."
The project does not restrict access or recreational opportunities, according to Zoll.
Over the next year, Army staff will construct three kilometers of the total fence, and a state contractor will complete the remaining nine kilometers of the exclosure.
Nine rare plant species and two species of the endangered kāhuli tree snail are located within the Army portion of the fence. Once the fence is complete, Army Natural Resources staff will collect seeds from rare plants, replant rare and native plants, and monitor and control invasive plants and introduced species that impact the survival of the native forest.
The Army is a member of the Ko'olau and Waianae Mountains Watershed partnerships on Oahu, as well as the Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance on Hawaii Island. Through these partnerships, the Army joins public and private landowners to protect large areas of forested watersheds that replenish groundwater and are home to numerous native plants and animals.
"It's partnerships like these that really make a difference and enable big projects to move forward," said Zoll. "Every bit counts and is essential to the success of the project as a whole."
This fence is the fifth Ko'olau partnership fence on Oahu the Army has supported and is the first fence project under DLNR's Rain Follows the Forest program, according to Kawelo.
Hawaii-wide the USAG-HI Natural Resources program manages more than 100 threatened and endangered species in support of Army requirements to enable Soldier training while protecting the local environment.
The Army's natural and cultural resource programs partner with more than 40 local, state and national entities as part of their stewardship efforts.