(Honolulu) - The Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Working Group, formed to respond to a new disease threatening Hawai‘i’s most important native forest tree, recently received the Conservation Innovation award at the 2019 Hawaii Conservation Conference. The working group is made up of nearly 200 individuals representing state, county, federal, university, non-profit organizations, local and private businesses, as well as private citizens. The purpose of the Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death Working Group is to facilitate inclusive communication on all issues related to the fungal disease and share knowledge on a regular basis among group members, their organizations, and the people of Hawai’i.

The ROD Working Group meeting has been held monthly in Hilo since 2015, but most members call in from around the state or the mainland for monthly updates. Committees focusing on research, surveys, control, and outreach provide reports to keep interested parties current on the latest information. “This forum has been key to maintaining information flow as well as connecting folks who want to contribute to the cause,” said Rob Hauff, State Protection Forester, with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death is caused by two closely related fungi species and has been found throughout Hawai’i island and was detected on Kaua’i in 2018 and on Maui last month. ʻŌhiʻa is the backbone of Hawaii’s native forests and watersheds making up 80% of remaining native forests.

The working group recommends the following to help reduce the risk of spreading Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death:

  • Avoid injuring ʻōhiʻa

  • Don’t transport ʻōhiʻa inter-island

  • Don’t move ʻōhiʻa wood or vegetation

  • Clean your hiking boots/gear/tools

  • Wash your vehicle

Representatives receiving the award on behalf of the working group were:

Dr. Flint Hughes, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station

Dr. Lisa Keith, USDA Agriculture Research Service, Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center

Dr. J.B. Friday, University of Hawaii, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources

Rob Hauff, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife

To view video please click on photo or view at this link: https://vimeo.com/showcase/6028897

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