Paintball, woodchips part of environmental discussion

HONOLULU - The Oahu Army Natural Resource Program, or OANRP, recently completed a series of meetings aimed at reviewing and guiding the Army's natural resource conservation work with endangered species.

Recent projects included the completion of more than five kilometers of pig and goat fencing, 150 acres of weed control, the reintroduction of more than 1,500 endangered plants and rat control around 75 pairs of nesting Elepaio birds.

"I'm incredibly proud of the accomplishments of our OANRP," said Alvin Char, chief, Directorate of Public Work's Environmental Division. "When we first started this program back in the mid-90's, ... there was a tremendous amount of work that needed to be done towards ecosystem management on Army lands. There challenge is still there today, but we can all be proud of what we've done and what we've accomplished over the years."

OANRP also discussed progress made on the research and development front, including use of paintball equipment to deliver herbicide to target weeds from a helicopter, a wood chipper for large-scale weed control projects, state-of-the-art rat control approaches and the approval of a slug bait to protect endangered plant seedlings in the forest.

Every year, the Makua Implementation Team gathers to review the Army's progress in executing the "Makua Implementation Plan" conservation measures and to troubleshoot any unexpected challenges. The MIT is the Army's sounding board for its natural resource program and also serves as a regulatory monitor of the Army's progress in meeting Endangered Species Act requirements.

The MIT - which includes biologists, botanists, geneticists, ecologists, resource managers, ornithologists, land owners, nonprofit conservation organizations, academic specialists and government agency representatives - was formed as a result of the Army's ESA consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to discuss training at Makua Military Reservation, and to bring together a team of experts to write a step-by-step plan for protecting the endangered species at MMR to offset any potential impacts from Army training.

The MIT prepared the MIP between 1998 and 2003. The MIP includes detailed fencing plans to protect native forest and endangered species from the damaging effects of wild pigs and goats; prescribes how to control introduced plants (weeds) to favor native forest restoration within these fences; and a strategy for conducting rare plant reintroductions, including the best pot size for greenhouse production and the expected survivorship. This plan also contains information about rare tree snail populations and identifies priorities for conservation.

In 2005, the Army also completed an Oahu Implementation Plan for conserving rare species potentially affected by training at all the other Oahu ranges, outside of Makua. The OIP was reviewed by the MIT, and both plans were wrapped into the same annual review process.

The USFWS had a large presence at this year's meeting and review, and considered the gathering a great success. Attendees were incredibly pleased with the massive effort the Army is putting toward the conservation of Hawaii's imperiled plants and animals.

"We are very happy with the progress the Army is making towards satisfying the goals and objectives of the implementation plans," said Patrice Ashfield, program leader, USFWS Section 7.

"We appreciate the amount of effort the staff from these various agencies and organizations have put in to help us make our efforts as scientifically sound as possible," said Michelle Mansker, Natural Resource Program manager. "Without them, we would have had a hard time achieving the success we have seen to date."

Page last updated Mon February 28th, 2011 at 15:37