Although the state Bag Bill foundered, along with its built-in watershed support, funding has not run dry. According to Emma Yuen of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR)’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, they will now have permission to use monies from the general capital improvements (CIP) budget for watersheds, albeit for this year only. “The Conference Committee on HB2012, HD1, SD1 passed a conference draft affirming that Hawaii’s fresh water supply is not inexhaustible and requires prudent management and protection. The committee agreed to Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s request for $5 million for watershed protection by allocating $2.5 million in general obligation bond funds and $2.5 million in special funds to increase the protection of priority watersheds in Hawaii.”

Mark Fox of the Hawaii Nature Conservancy, which collaborates statewide in watershed partnerships, adds, “This is a new type of state funding for conservation management and a recognition that forest management work has a critical capital improvement component in the form of fencing. We look forward to working with DLNR to put this money into solid projects over the next year, showing that success to the legislature, and asking for additional investment.”

And Christy Martin, of the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species, observes, “Although the funding falls far short of the actual need, the legislature showed that they not only understand the immediate need for expanding watershed protection, but they also believe it is important enough to tap a new funding source.”