Monday, April 02, 2007

Hawaiian Army base receives conservation award

U. S. Army Garrison-Pohakuloa on Hawaii's Big Island recently garnered the 2006 Military Conservation Partner Award, bestowed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The service created the award to recognize "significant natural resource conservation achievements through cooperative work with the Service, state and local government, and other organizations. Such achievements may include the conservation, protection, and restoration of important habitat for a variety of species - including endangered and native species - on military lands."

The service's director, H. Dale Hall, said, "The service applauds Pohakuloa's cooperative conservation achievements, especially their proactive habitat restoration and endangered species monitoring program, which exemplifies positive cooperation between government and private-sector partners."

The 131,000-acre Pohakuloa Training Area - located on the island of Hawaii between Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and the Hualalai Mountains - is the largest Department of Defense installation in Hawaii. The area extends as high as 9,000 feet on Mauna Loa and is a mosaic of unique ecosystems. Pohakuloa's natural resource staff helps protect 19 federally listed species - 15 threatened or endangered plant species, 3 bird species, and one mammal. Several of these endangered plant species exist only at Pohakuloa and their numbers are critically low due to threats that include over-grazing, competition from invasive plants, and wildfires.

Pohakuloa's natural resource staff has developed an impressive array of community partnerships through groups such as the Hawaii Community College and the Junior Sierra Club. These partnerships seek to educate the public about resource protection and land stewardship through Earth Day Activities and other community events. Pohakuloa also works with organizations to decrease over-grazing by allowing controlled hunting of feral sheep, goats, and pigs. In addition, the natural resource staff has also exceeded expectations concerning the protection of listed plant species on rare Hawaiian sub alpine tropical dry land forest habitat by restricting grazing by these animals. To prevent grazing damage, Pohakuloa has gone to great effort and expense to erect over 7,000 acres of exclusionary fencing and plans to fence a total of 33,000 acres. This exclusionary fencing also benefits the Hawaiian hoary bat by allowing mature shelter trees used for roosting and breeding to regenerate.

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