Amid heavy rains, Maui County secures federal drought relief
WAILUKU – Federal officials have approved Hawaii Governor David Ige’s request to declare a disaster for Maui County amid a drought that has persisted for two years.
State officials announced this week that US Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack had approved the secretariat’s request for an agricultural disaster declaration, the Maui News reported on Wednesday.
Even though parts of the county are experiencing heavy rains and flooding this week, other areas remain in the worst possible drought conditions. Maui County includes the islands of Maui, Lanai, and Molokai.
Ige declared an emergency proclamation for the county after drought conditions forced starving axis deer into agricultural and developed areas. Herders and farmers suffered significant economic losses, and deer exacerbated the already difficult drought conditions.
“Although the county faced heavy rains this week, it does not remedy the damage caused by the prolonged drought,” Ige said in a statement. “The federal drought disaster declaration will allow our farmers and ranchers to access federal assistance programs and assist them in recovery efforts.
The declaration makes farms and ranches eligible for federal assistance, including emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.
The state’s Department of Agriculture “is currently reviewing about 60 applications for state grants to help farm operations that have suffered damage from drought-intensified axis deer populations in the county.” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chair of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.
The Axis deer, a species native to India given as a gift from Hong Kong to the King of Hawaii in 1868, has fed hunters and their families in County Maui for generations. But invasive species are a danger to the ecosystem of the islands in several ways.
Deer devour anything they see, and the loss of vegetation leads to erosion and runoff into the ocean that alter coral reefs, another important food source.
Options for controlling the population include more hunting, aerial fire, and fencing that protects certain areas.
Maui County recently set aside $ 1 million to address the issue. Last year, a bill to allocate an additional $ 1 million died in the state legislature after residents were turned back who feared the deer would be wiped out.