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Bill aims to fight rapid ohia death

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono introduced legislation on Wednesday to combat rapid ohia death, which has killed more than a million ohia trees in Hawaii since it was discovered in 2014.

The Continued Rapid Ohia Death Response Act of 2022 authorizes $55 million in federal funding over the next 11 years to support ongoing efforts by federal and state agencies to help combat the fungal disease in Hawaii, including research, feral ungulate management and native forest restoration.

“Ohia trees are Hawaii’s most abundant native tree, making up nearly 80 percent of our native forests,” Hirono said in a news release Wednesday. “But over the last decade, rapid ohia death has decimated Hawaii’s ohia population, presenting an existential threat to our environment and the species’ future.”

Rapid ohia death has been detected on Hawaii island, Kauai, Maui and Oahu.

“Ohia lehua is the most important native tree in Hawaii for protection of our life-giving forest watersheds,” said Suzanne Case, chairperson of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. “Funding for research to find a treatment for this fungal infection is of critical importance.”

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