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DLNR News Release-Hawai’i Receives $2 Million for Kohala Mountain Watershed Protection

Posted on Sep 15, 2022 in Latest Department News, Newsroom

(HONOLULU) – The Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources will be further protecting forests in the Kohala Mountains on Hawai‘i Island thanks to awards from the federal Bureau of Reclamation (BOR). The BOR has awarded more than $1.9 million to protect forested and wetland habitat from invasive species and replant in riparian corridors.

“We are very grateful for Bureau of Reclamation support to protect the forests of Kohala, which will help protect our fresh water supplies,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said.  “Our forests capture rain and cloud moisture in the high-rainfall Kohala mountains, supplying the region’s water, including ditch systems that bring water from the mauka forest to farms, ranches, and lo‘i kalo (taro farm) agricultural users. When hooved animals strip vegetation down to bare ground, the steep mountainsides in these ancient forests rapidly erode, depositing muddy sediment onto beaches and near-shore coral reefs.”

The funding will also benefit endangered plants and wildlife, sequester carbon, and will help keep streams flowing and healthy. It will help attain the State’s Sustainable Hawaiʻi Initiative watershed goal to protect 30% of priority watershed forests by 2030. Currently, only 17% of native forests statewide are protected from the top-most threats. The project is in collaboration with the Kohala Watershed Partnership, a voluntary collaboration of major landowners and land managers that have partnered to protect the forests across the mountain range since 2003.

The BOR is supporting the project through its WaterSMART program, which works cooperatively with states and other local entities to increase water supplies.

“DLNR was eligible for this grant because of  matching State funds provided by the legislature for watershed protection. This allows us to extend State funding for healthier forests, communities, and more local job opportunities to protect our ʻāina, on our path to achieving our 30X30 watershed goal,” Case added.

“I am thrilled with this nearly $2 million BOR award to help protect forested and wetland habitat from invasive species and replant in riparian corridors in the Kohala Mountains forests. Projects like these are essential for the restoration and protection of our native forests and allow the State to continue its efforts to meet the 30X30 watershed initiative,” said Sen. Lorraine Inouye.

Sen. Inouye and Rep. David Tarnas were instrumental in gaining approval for State matching funds. Both say that improving the health of our forests, watershed, and water resources, is critical for both the long-term health of our economy and the ʻāina.

Senator Inouye added, “I am proud that the legislature was able to provide matching funds to DLNR, which allowed the department to become eligible for this grant. It will go a long way in furthering the quality of the Kohala Mountains’ natural resources.”

Representative Tarnas also expressed his appreciation: “I am grateful that DLNR’s proposal for the Kohala Mountain Watershed was funded by the Water SMART program. Leveraging State funding to secure federal funding is an important strategy for our State agencies to increase support for these important programs. Protecting watersheds does protect drinking water supplies. Every community in the Kohala mountain watershed, which uses public drinking water, should be grateful for this support!”

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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR)

HD video – Kohala Forest Reserve (Sept. 14, 2022):

Photographs: Kohala Mountain watershed (Sept. 14, 2022):

Photographs: Kohala Forest Reserve:

Media Contact: 

Madison Rice

Communications Specialist

Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources

[email protected]