Watershed Partnerships are voluntary alliances of both public and private landowners committed to the common value of protecting forested watersheds for water recharge, conservation, and other ecosystem services through collaborative management. Building on the past when over 100 years ago the territorial government of Hawai‘i established partnerships with private landowners to restore degraded forests, the first Watershed Partnership began in East Maui in 1991.
Today, there are ten statewide on five major islands -Kaua‘i, O‘ahu (2), Moloka‘i, Maui (3), and Hawai‘i (3). Together, these partnerships involve over 74 private landowners and public agencies that cover over 2.2 million acres of land in the state. There is no model like it in the state with respect to watershed management breadth, scope, and efficacy.
Forested watersheds are vital recharge regions for Hawaii’s underground aquifers and a dependable source of clean water for its streams and people (click here to see a short video on why watersheds matter). They are also home to the last remaining native ecosystems in Hawai‘i and house thousands of native species of animals and plants found no where else on earth. Habitats found in Watershed Partnerships range from mesic koa-‘ōhi‘a forests to cliffs, from subalpine shrublands to grasslands, from dry forests to young lava flows and tubes, and from wetland bogs to coastal systems (click here to see native habitats/species video).
Most management actions are habitat based and revolve around combating the main threats of feral ungulates (hoofed animals such as goats, deer, sheep, pigs, etc.) and invasive species (click here for threats video). Actions include fencing and ungulate removal, invasive species control, rare plant outplanting and native habitat restoration, and outreach and education (click here for management video). These management actions make a critical difference by benefitting native forests, watersheds, coastal and coral reef areas by reducing erosion and sedimentation run-off into streams.