LIHUE — Hawaii Tourism Authority is partnering with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources on two new projects aimed at wilderness preservation and raising public awareness about respect for the land.
With the Merrie Monarch Festival in full swing on Hawaii Island, HTA is helping the state with response to Rapid Ohia Death by sponsoring data gathering and education. ROD is a fungal disease that is impacting trees on Hawaii Island and on Kauai.
Most recently, HTA funded a $250,000 set of aerial surveys of Hawaii Island, Kauai and parts of east Maui to look for signs of the disease. Data is still being organized according to DLNR, but the survey covered more than a million acres of ohia forest potentially being impacted by the disease.
“During this week of the annual Merrie Monarch Festival, it’s important for us all to be mindful of the natural and cultural significance of ohia lehua as our keystone native tree species for protecting Hawaii’s forests and watersheds,” said Kalani Ka‘ana‘ana, HTA’s director of Hawaiian Cultural Affairs.
DLNR and its partners conduct regular “sketch mapping” aerial surveys of ohia forests across the state to detect new disease outbreaks. These surveys are done from helicopters, but the data collected by Arizona State University’s high-altitude aerial platform is much more precise and provides highly-accurate location data on trees suspected to be infected.
“The HTA support has helped expand our outreach to visitors who could potentially move ROD from island to island,” said Rob Hauff, State Protection Forester, for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
Over the past year, HTA has provided more than $400,000 to support ROD initiatives, including $20,000 for trailhead sanitation stations and signs, $20,000 for bio-sanitation workshops for eco-tour operators, as well as support for the annual Ohia Love Fest in Hilo.
Simultaneously, HTA is partnering with DLNR to form a series of public service announcements aimed at educating and reminding visitors and kama’aina about being respectful of the archipelago’s natural resources, about safety in visiting the islands, and about wildlife protection.
The campaign is known as “Malama Hawaii” and the PSAs will be available starting with Hawaiian Airlines flights from the mainland.
The PSAs will be onboard the carrier’s Airbus A330 aircraft on flights between Hawaii and North America. The 30-second videos focus on topics essential to caring for the land, ocean and wildlife, which include staying on authorized hiking trails and respecting cultural sites.
In addition, AirAsia X is beginning to play audio versions of the announcements. Discussions are also underway with both domestic and international carriers to show the 30-second spots.
In addition, the PSAs will run in 27,000 hotel rooms around the state, reaching an estimated three million guests each year.
DLNR chair Suzanne Case announced the campaign Tuesday.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at email@example.com