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Big Island Invasive Species Committee May Have To Cut 'Critical' Programs

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region
Coqui frog

More pests, less money. That's the outlook for the fight against invasive species on Hawaiʻi Island.

The Big Island Invasive Species Committee faces a budget shortfall of about $220,000 for 2022.

Springer Kaye serves as the Program Manager for BIISC.

"With a smaller organization, a whole program might be run by one specialist. A quarter million dollars, that's four positions — that could be four whole programs, " said Kaye. "Like our entire little fire ant education program just gone, or our entire nursery endorsement program that teaches nursery owners to recognize and not import invasive plants and plant pests — that could just be gone."

The Hawaii Invasive Species Council disburses funding to interagency invasive species projects across the state. For 2022, they received more than fifty applicants vying for a cut of just over $9 million.

"This is a competitive process," said Kaye. "The demand and the need for funding continues to grow. New invasive species just continue to arrive in Hawaiʻi. And the pot of money just doesn't change."

HISC acknowledged that the budget shortfall for BIISC "will impact the program’s ability to maintain their current staff and continue critical projects for target pests."

But Kaye says that it's not an issue of merit. "Last year, we received more money than any of the other invasive species committees. And last year, we asked for a lot more money than we did this year...So the council noted that this was not, in any way, a reflection of our lack of performance," said Kaye. "We were able to successfully announce the eradication of one of our target species last year...our team just does a phenomenal job. And unfortunately, sometimes the when you roll the funding dice, it just doesn't go your way."

This interview aired on The Conversation on Sept. 2, 2021.

Savannah Harriman-Pote is the energy and climate change reporter. She is also the lead producer of HPR's This Is Our Hawaiʻi podcast.
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