KRCP Accomplisments Summary
The Kōkeʻe Resource Conservation Program (KRCP) is a volunteer based alien species control program sponsored by the Garden Island Resource Conservation & Development, Inc. in collaboration with the Hawaiʻi Department of Land & Natural Resources (DLNR) State Parks Division and Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW). KRCP involves the public in protecting native ecosystem resources, coordinating volunteers to conduct essential invasive noxious weed removal in selected areas. Funding has been provided by the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, Cooke Foundation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (HTA), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), USDA Forest Service, the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), DLNR, Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Council (HISC), and private donations.
Strategies are 1) to remove the most disruptive weeds such as Kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum), Strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum) and Firetree (Myrica faya), from Special Ecological Areas (SEAs), that contain relatively intact ecosystems. The SEAs generally coincide with areas containing rare, threatened, and endangered native Hawaiian plant species; and 2) to target incipient weeds such as Privet (Ligustrum sinense) and Firethorn (Pyracantha angustifolia).
KRCP addresses a very critical need for this region. The much-visited Kōkeʻe, Waimea Canyon, and Nā Pali Coast State Parks encompass 12,386 acres on northwest Kauaʻi and are bordered by Kuʻia and Hono o Nā Pali Natural Areas Reserves as well as the Alakaʻi Wilderness Preserve. This ecologically rich area contains several native plant communities, including the rare Koa/ʻŌhi’a Montane Mesic Forest. The relatively pristine, high elevation bogs of the Alakaʻi are truly unique in the world and highly deserve protection. 26 Threatened & Endangered species and an additional 31 rare plant taxa are found in scattered locations throughout the State Parks. Indeed, Hawaiʻi has become the “endangered species capital of the world” due to the many threats that are degrading native habitat and the resultant loss of species; one-third of the federally listed endangered and threatened species are Hawaiian, and three-fourths of the nation’s extinct plant and bird species once lived only on our islands.
Kauaʻi has been severely impacted by two hurricanes since 1982, which have caused proliferation of nonnative invasive species. Biological invasion by alien weed species alters the population dynamics and community structure of native plant communities. "Native and endemic species are the true jewels of any ecosystem. The effects of non-native (alien) plants and animals constitute the greatest threat to native species and ecosystems in Hawaiʻi" (Biological Survey for Kōkeʻe and Waimea Canyon State Parks, Kauaʻi, The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi, 1996)
Alteration and loss of native habitat is a significant problem for all components of these ecosystems. US Fish & Wildlife Service Recovery Plans for Kauaʻi endangered plants specify alien plants as a priority #1 threat to the survival of all but 2 of the 49 listed endangered species discussed in these recovery plans. Remnants of the once extensive native forests need protection.
The project uses weed control strategies and methods developed, tested and proven by decades of work by the National Park Service (NPS), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture, and DLNR. Weed removal methods are manual and mechanical where feasible, but generally involve the judicious use of herbicides.
After a training session, supervised volunteer projects involve walking through the forest, spotting the target weeds, and treating them. Small ones are pulled; alien trees are notched and a small amount of herbicide applied to the notch; the Kahili ginger is cut and herbicide applied to the stump. These methods have been adapted for volunteer use and can serve as a model for forest management practices using volunteers.
KRCP has been highly successful and popular since it was officially started in January 1998. As of September 2013 over 27,000 volunteers, including repeat volunteers, have contributed 137,731 hours of labor. Weed control was initiated in 9,765 acres (includes repeat acres) of the Parks and Forest Reserves. Populations of several incipient invaders were greatly reduced, and a total of 10,095,236 individual non-native plants removed. Weeding and other management activities were conducted n the vicinity of fourteen different species of Threatened and Endangered plants.
Preserving the biodiversity of this unique region will only be realized by keeping pressure on the invasive species. The natural resources of Hawaiʻi contain magnificent ecosystems that are unique in the world, and need protection immediately. KRCP is addressing these concerns with work on the ground to preserve these upland forests and involve the community in resource conservation.