"Operation Miconia," launched by Governor Cayetano on April 12, 1996 has met its initial goals of:
Public support has been excellent, and Miconia control teams of
agency staff and community volunteers have made great progress
in containing this serious pest. Lanai and Molokai continue to
be free of Miconia and community monitoring programs are in place
to watch for any infestations. Oahu and Kauai infestations are
small and localized, and prospects are very good for complete
eradication on those islands with low-cost, persistent effort.
Maui's major infestation is now under heavy attack by full-time
field crews, who are making good progress. A three-person field
crew is now on board for the Big Island, where over 10,000 acres
are infested with Miconia. To be successful, however, this campaign
must be sustained for several years.
The top current priority for Operation Miconia is to secure additional
monies for Big Island operations. The County of Hawaii has budgeted
$100,000 which the Big Island Miconia Action Committee hopes to
apply toward a two-year project budget of $382,000. Additional
funds are being sought from federal, state, and private sources.
The Kauai program is coordinated by Guy Nagai (Hawaii Department
of Agriculture, ph. 274-3069). A strong community awareness campaign
resulted in several reports to the Kauai Miconia hotline, most
of which turned out to be other plant species of no concern. All
Miconia found to date on Kauai are in the Wailua river drainage.
All have received initial treatment (pulling or herbicide treatment)
and been revisited once to remove new seedlings. The only exception
is a single, immature tree on an inaccessible cliff below a private
home. HDOA does not have rapelling equipment to reach this plant,
but will work with partners to accomplish this task. Prospects
for complete eradication of Miconia on Kauai are good, assuming
no new, major infestations are found in remote areas. The current
program can be maintained without additional personnel, provided
that roughly $5,000 per year are available for helicopter access
to remote sites and special equipment or supply needs.
The Oahu effort is coordinated by Pat Conant (Hawaii Department
of Agriculture, ph. 973-9526). Staff and volunteer teams have
treated all known populations (upper Manoa, upper Kalihi, Nuuanu,
and Wahiawa), and have been successful in reaching all known plants
to prevent the expansion of these relatively small infestations.
There may be additional Miconia on the inaccessible ridges and
gulches in upper Manoa, Kalihi, and Kamanaiki (between Nuuanu
and Kalihi) valleys. These require helicopter reconnaissance.
Similarly, the region mauka of Wahiawa Botanical Garden (largely
within the East Range training area of Schofield Barracks Military
Reservation) should be checked for untreated Miconia populations.
The Army will be asked to conduct these searches. Calls to the
Oahu Miconia Hotline continue sporadically. As on Kauai, most
of the plants reported turn out to be India rubber, castor bean,
or other large-leaved aliens, but not Miconia. Like Kauai, the
Oahu eradication effort has high promise for success if it is
sustained with roughly $5,000 per year in helicopter time and
miscellaneous supplies, plus the existing commitment of HDOA staff
time to coordinate volunteers and field operations. Pat Conant's
imminent transfer to the Big Island creates a potential staffing
void that must be filled to sustain Oahu Miconia eradication efforts.
With Guy Nagai's (HDOA) transfer to Kauai and no replacement staff
from HDOA on Molokai, Ed Misaki of The Nature Conservancy's Molokai
program has volunteered to serve as Operation Miconia lead for
the island. Hotline reports are being taken at Ed's office (553-5236).
School presentations and informational displays at community events
in 1996 have the community talking about and looking for Miconia.
Several suspicious plants have been reported, but none turned
out to be Miconia. Ed and his community partners will continue
displays and presentations this year to maintain public vigilance.
No funding is needed on Molokai.
Gaylien Kaho'ohalahala of The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii (ph.
565-7430) is the Lanai lead for Operation Miconia. Canvassing
of schools and community presentations have been completed, and
one suspicious plant was reported, checked,and turned up negative.
No funding is needed on Lanai.
Miconia work on Maui is coordinated by the Tri-Isle RC&D Melastome
Action Committee, chaired by Randy Bartlett of Maui Pineapple
Co. (ph. 669-6201). Wes Wong of Hawaii Division of Forestry
and Wildlife (ph. 984-8100) is the primary contact for Operation
Miconia matters. The Maui Melastome Action Committee has developed
the most active Miconia control program in the state, with major
funding and in-kind support from private, county, state, and federal
A five-person, full-time crew hired in June, 1996 is focused on
the major Miconia infestation near Hana. Over 5 miles of
rough roads have been bulldozed to provide access to the work
site. Roughly one third of the 300-acre core population area (where
Miconia occurs in dense stands) and about one fifth of the 2200-acre
peripheral area (where scattered Miconia plants are believed to
exist) has been surveyed and received initial treatment (pulling
or herbicide spraying of all visible Miconia plants). County funding
is being sought to extend this work beyond the currently funded
period, which will expire in May, 1997. Prospects for receiving
this funding appear to be good. The Maui team expects to complete
removal of all established plants from the 300-acre core infestation
by October, 1997 and to complete a systematic search and treatment
of plants in the peripheral area by June, 1998. Thereafter, the
project will focus on re-treatment of sprouting plants until the
soil seed bank is exhausted (Miconia seeds are estimated to remain
viable in the soil for about 6 years).
Pat Bily of The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii (TNCH, ph. 572-7849)
leads the effort to treat Miconia in all known satellite populations
(outside of Hana) in Keanae, Nahiku, and Huelo. All known populations
are under active control, though several are large and will require
years of effort. Pat has been successful in involving community
volunteers in control projects and in locating new infestations.
A conversation with a Nahiku resident led Pat to discover
a small population in Wailuku, near the mouth of Iao Valley, in
late 1996. The single tree observed in a private garden in Kaupo
by Alan Holt (TNCH) requires follow up to confirm that it was
destroyed by the landowner and to check for possible additional
plants in the surrounding area. Because the Kaupo area is generally
too dry to support vigourous Miconia growth, this population is
a lower priority.
Project leadership on the Big Island is in transition from Julie
Leialoha (DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife) to Kim Tavares
(field crew leader hired under FY97 County funding, ph. 974-4140).
On the Big Island, Operation Miconia is a fledgling program, even
though Miconia infestations are larger and more widespread than
on other islands. Organized efforts to contain Miconia began in
1996 when private, county, state, and federal organizations and
individuals teamed up to address this threat by forming the Big
Island Miconia Control Committee. Following commitment of $75,000
by the County of Hawaii in FY1996-1997, hiring of a three-person
team to expand control operations, community involvement, and
mapping of infestations was completed in late November. Kim Tavares,
an experienced natural resource manager formerly with the National
Park Service, leads this crew, which operates out of the Hawaii
Department of Agriculture baseyard in Hilo. Other state, federal,
and private organizations are also supporting the current Big
Island effort. This initial program focuses on (1) eliminating
small, outlying populations of plants, where the threat of expansion
is greatest; (2) curtailing reproduction and dispersal of selected,
larger populations to halt further spread; and, (3) reconnaissance
and mapping efforts, using public outreach and aerial survey,
to locate sites of incipient invasion. In the past few months,
over 75 acres have been treated by the State Division of Forestry
and Wildlife (DOFAW), State Department of Agriculture, Nanawale
Community Association workers, and other community members. At
present, intensive removal and treatment efforts are continuing
in the Lower Puna district and mature Miconia plants are being
removed from roadsides in the Onomea area as necessary to reduce
dispersal from vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
It will take several years of well-organized effort to contain
Miconia on the Big Island. The challenge now is to sustain and
strengthen the fledgling Big Island Miconia program. While field
work continues under the $75,000 County appropriation, committee
members are working with the County to prepare for the next phase:
a two-year (June 1, 1997 - June 30, 1999), $382,000 project to
complete treatment of mature plants in all satellite population,
complete island-wide surveys, and prepare the detailed, long-range
plan for Big Island Miconia work. An important component of this
work is refinement of treatment methods to maximize efficiency.
The County has budgeted $100,000 in the current fiscal year which
the committee is proposing to apply toward this two-year effort.
Matching funds are being actively pursued via proposals to the
U.S. Forest Service and other federal, state, and private sources.
Biological Control development:
Safe and effective biological control agents are critically important
to the long-term success of Operation Miconia. The Hawaii Department
of Agriculture's biocontrol research efforts have produced a new,
promising control agent, the Miconia-specific fungus Colletotrichum
gloeosporoides f. sp. miconiae), a native of
Latin America. The Department has expedited its own review process
and now awaits U.S. Department of Agriculture approval to release
this fungus for field testing. Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological
Survey--Biological Resources Division (USGS-BRD) Pacific Science
Center at U.H. has been funded for a total of $90,000 over the
next three years to identify additional potential biocontrol agents
for Miconia in cooperation with Latin American scientists and
HDOA's exploratory pathologist.
Other Public Education/Outreach:
An October, 1996 public awareness poll funded by The Nature Conservancy indicates that about 35% of those queried have heard of Miconia as a problem weed in Hawaii. This poll establishes a baseline against which changes in public awareness can be measured as Operation Miconia continues.
A 30-second Public Service Announcement is in final production
and slated for media distribution on March 17, 1997 with air-dates
shortly thereafter. The Miconia PSA aims to increase the
public's awareness of Miconia's threat to Hawaii's natural environment
and also increase the public's ability to correctly identify Miconia
before they call in reports to the individual island hotlines.
A toll-free number (1-888-MICONIA) has been donated by GST, Inc.
which will access the existing ASK-2000 phone service and enable
(esp. Neighbor Island) callers to make a toll-free call, which
will then be routed to existing Miconia tapes for more information,
or, to the island hotlines for new location reports. The Tri-Isle
RC&D (Maui) Melastome Action Committee has spearheaded production
of this PSA.
Several web pages on the Internet now provide information on Miconia.
The primary hub for Miconia information can be found at http://www.environment-hawaii.org/301emma.htm.
Also check http://www.hear.org/MiconiaInHawaii/ and,
with more of a local focus on the Big Island, http://www.kvhn.com/miconia.htm.
The USGS-BRD at Haleakala National Park has been monitoring/evaluating
the Miconia problem on Maui since 1991. USGS-BRD is funded
for $120,000 over the next three years to continue monitoring
and evaluation of both ground and biological control efforts of
the Miconia population on Maui. An aerial spectral analysis
photography trial study will begin in April, 1997 by TerraSystems,
Inc. of Oahu and U.C.-Davis,with $50,000 in funding from The Nature
Conservancy's Mellon EcosystemResearch Program. One objective
of this study is to develop the ability to rapidly detect Miconia
trees across large areas of land using aerial imagery.
This report was compiled from information provided by each of the Operation Miconia island team coordinators.