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Coral Reef Initiative targets resource concerns in West Maui

By Staff | Feb 23, 2012

HONOLULU – Funding is available to help West Side landowners implement land-based conservation practices through the West Maui Coral Reef Initiative.

Under the initiative, farmers and ranchers are encouraged to install conservation practices such as cover crops, vegetative barriers, sediment basins or micro-irrigation systems to minimize soil erosion.

In addition, tree/shrub establishment or restoration of rare/declining habitat is also encouraged on forest land.

“We are pleased to make this available to private landowners within the area, and we hope that it makes an impact to protect our coral reefs,” said Angel Figueroa, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service director of the Pacific Islands Area.

Technical and financial assistance is available to producers through two 2008 Farm Bill conservation programs, which include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program.

In coordination with local, state and federal agencies and organizations, NRCS’ Landscape Conservation Initiatives use a systems approach that focuses assistance to implement an array of conservation practices to address specific resource concerns.

The West Maui Coral Reef Initiative is one of 15 Landscape Conservation Initiatives that address resource concerns of national importance.

The goal is to help landowners implement voluntary conservation practices to protect water quality, improve wildlife habitat and enhance the long-term sustainability of producers’ operations.

The area of coverage for funding includes West Maui, Kahakuloa, Waihee, Wailuku, Waikapu and the Maalaea District.

“Through landscape initiative partnerships, we’re maximizing conservation efforts to address some of our most pressing natural resource challenges,” NRCS Chief Dave White said.

“The result is far-reaching and long-lasting environmental benefits for the nation.”

According to “Status of Maui’s Coral Reefs,” a state Department of Land & Natural Resources’ report created in 2007, “The causes of coral reef decline around Maui are complex and vary among locations, but there are strong indications that human impacts have been very important. Notably, cover has declined at several West Maui sites: Honolua Bay, Kahekili, shallow reefs of Olowalu, and at Maalaea, where anthropogenic impacts from shoreline development and human use are likely greatest.”

The document concludes: “It is very important to recognize that the kind of degradation which has occurred at Maalaea and elsewhere is not just a matter of loss of coral cover. Reductions in associated habitat quality and topographical complexity mean that once degradation is well established, affected reefs will have lower recreational and commercial value, and will support limited fish stocks, to the detriment of all resource users.

“The goal of those charged with the protection and restoration of Hawaii’s natural resources must be to prevent such severe degradation from further affecting Maui’s reefs. Given the trajectories of decline over the last 7-13 years, it is evident that substantial deterioration can occur rapidly. If steps are not taken to return conditions to those in which corals can thrive, it is nearly certain that additional reefs will reach the state of


“Recovery of herbivore stocks may be part of the solution at some locations, but without other steps to reduce land-based impacts there is unlikely to be substantial recovery across the island’s reefs.”

The first round of application ranking will take place on March 16.

Agricultural producers interested in becoming part of the West Maui Coral Reef Initiative should contact the Kahului NRCS office at 77 Hookele St., Suite 202, in Kahului, or call 871-5500.

If funding is still available after the first round of ranking, then a second sign-up will take place on May 18, 2012.

Visit www.pia.nrcs.usda.gov for more information on NRCS programs and services.