Haleakala National Park wants your help in determining how best to deal with the feral animals that make life difficult for the native species that live in Nu`u, park officials announced yesterday.
“Haleakala National Park Service, in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, is working to protect and restore 2,115 acres of habitat for native species in Nu‘u, on the leeward slope of Haleakala,” states a June 14 press release from the park. “In support of this effort, management and removal of feral animals has been proposed and an Environmental Assessment prepared to analyze the effects of implementing that action.”
The Nu`u region is “one of Maui’s largest undeveloped tracts of land,” according to the Environmental Assessment (EA). It contains numerous “rare, threatened and endangered plant and animal species,” as well as offers habitat protection for them. It “once contained tropical dryland forest, which are among the most diverse yet threatened ecosystems in the world,” according to the EA, and is a “near-ideal candidate” for restoration. There are also “many significant Hawaiian cultural sites” in the region.
What to do with the feral species that decimate native species in Nu`u–and on Maui in general–is one of the most important ecological issues we’re facing today. The EA explains why in considerable detail.
“Adverse impacts from feral ungulates on native plant and wildlife species, as well as habitat in general, is well documented in Hawai‘i and has resulted in extensive biodiversity loss,” states the EA. “Grazing and digging for roots by feral animals result in damage to ground cover and consumption of native plants. Soil disturbance from these activities results in erosion and sediment run-off. Disturbed earth is vulnerable to colonization by non-native plant species. Native wildlife species have evolved in the absence of large predators and are especially vulnerable to predation and loss of habitat caused by their presence. These impacts are listed as significant threats in several US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Conservation and Recovery Plans, including the recovery plan for the ‘ua‘u.”
But what to do about the feral goats, pigs, dogs and axis deer that also live there? They destroy native habitat and kill native birds and their nests. The park’s press release uses the term “management,” which is basically meaningless. The EA itself refers to “a combination of non-lethal and lethal methods,” which would include an “ungulate control fence.”
“Management and removal of feral animals will provide protected habitat for endangered ‘ua‘u, and potentially other federally listed or candidate species,” states the EA. “HNP biologists postulate that ‘ua‘u from the protected areas of Haleakala are currently attempting to nest in Nu‘u. The area will be managed for ‘zero tolerance’ of feral animals in perpetuity. Intensive control efforts to removal animals to ‘near zero’ population is expected to occur for the first year.”
Federal officials want the public to comment on this plan, but the comment period is only open until the middle of July. Those wishing to comment may do so by email (to [email protected]) with the subject line “Nu‘u EA,” or by regular mail (Attention: Nu‘u Environmental Assessment, Haleakala NP, P.O. Box 369, Makawao, HI, 96768). All comments must be received by close of business on July 14, 2016.
Click here for a PDF of the Nu`u Environmental Assessment.
Photo courtesy Haleakala National Park