HONOPU VALLEY – The Forestry and Wildlife Division of the State Department of Lands and Natural Resources is building an almost 240-acre fence in the Honopu Valley to protect native flora and fauna from invasive species .
Division staff said the initiative, called the Honopu Ecosystem Restoration Project, is a race against time to protect rare native habitat left untouched on Kaua’i.
“If we don’t do the best in the time we have, we risk losing species forever,” said Chris Mottley, DOFAW’s Kaua’i native ecosystem protection and management manager, said at the meeting. ‘a site visit on Tuesday. “I mean, it’s forever. There is no going back to that.
The project was conceptualized in 2018. When complete, it will first consist of a 238.9 acre fenced enclosure encircling the upper Honopu watershed, from Kalepa Ridge to the Honopu Trail, on land divided between Koke’e State and Na Pali-Kona Forest. Reserve. Inside, a predator-proof 3.25 acre fenced area that will surround an endangered seabird colony. Construction is now approximately 50% complete.
The 4 foot high exterior fence follows the ridge line of the valley. It should keep ungulates – hoofed mammals like pigs, goats, and deer – out of the watershed (the barrier will be 8 feet high in places adjacent to jumping deer populations). These animals ravage the Kaua’i landscape through their destructive consumption of native plants, according to DOFAW.
“The ungulates that are here not only trample the borrowings – the pigs are actually predators of seabirds – they destroy native habitat,” said Yuki Reiss, DOFAW water resources analyst. “They eat the seeds. Goats cause a lot of erosion.
At 7 feet tall and made of a fine mesh, the interior predator-proof fence is intended to prevent damage from mice, rats and cats.
Reiss said he would do more than protect the threatened populations of Newell’s Shearwater, Hawaiian Petrel and Storm Petrel nesting in the colony.
“In the predator-proof fence, bringing the rats out also benefits the plants, as these rats eat the seeds and seedlings, and stop this ability of these native plants to spread naturally,” she explained. .
Four pairs of seabirds are currently breeding in the colony. Once the anti-predator fence is finished, DOFAW and its partners will try to expand the population by playing on the sociability of the birds.
“They’re just attracted to the sound of other birds. That’s why social attraction works, ”Reiss said.
Kaua’i Archipelago Research and Conservation will implement this aspect of the project, which involves a solar-powered audio system.
“This means playing calls to seabird colonies to attract birds into the fence, which will be a safe place to breed,” ARC executive director Helen Raine told The Garden Island in an email.
Reiss compared the intended effect to a bachelorette party for birds held at a shelter.
“These prospecting birds are coming back to Kaua’i because that’s where they were born, but they haven’t established a nesting site yet,” she explained. “They will start to come based on these calls. They will arrive, pair up and start digging burrows.
DOFAW has already installed 50 pre-made burrows to speed up the colonization process and invited hunters to help eliminate game in the area.
The Honopu project is primarily funded by the United States Department of Defense Environmental Protection Preparedness and Integration (REPI) program to improve the conditions of federally protected seabirds. The $ 1.2 million REPI fund is supplemented by up to $ 500,000 from the state, according to Reiss.
The Mottley Native Ecosystem Protection Team has been entrusted with the management of the project site by the DLNR. He believes the work is vitally important and thanks DOFAW’s local branch manager Sheri Mann and the state’s Director of Indigenous Ecosystem Protection and Management Emma Yuen for researching the resources needed to get the fences off the ground.
“We’re basically buying time for future generations,” Mottley said. “They deserve this opportunity and the right to experience the native ecosystem.”
The predator-proof fence is expected to be completed by the end of 2021. Completion of the ungulate fence is expected to occur sometime in 2022.
“I think, basically, Kaua’i is at the point where this is what’s left… the upper forests,” Reiss concluded, standing on a ridge overlooking the Honopu Valley to the sea below. “The fence is the main way we can protect them, because of all the things that are protected: the native plants, the watershed, the seabirds, the whole ecosystem. “