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Helping Protect a Watershed on Molokai

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The Monsanto Fund has awarded a $20,000 grant to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) of Hawaii for watershed protection at Kamakou Preserve on Molokai. Since 2006, the Monsanto Fund has contributed a total of $130,000 to TNC’s protection and restoration efforts of critical watershed and fragile ecosystems on Molokai.

Located high in the mountains of East Molokai, the 2,774-acre Kamakou Preserve is a rainforest like no other on the planet. This lush natural landscape not only shelters hundreds of native plants and animals, but also serves as an important source of water for the island and its people.

“The Kaunakakai site is a manufacturing facility that farms over 2,000 acres, producing Foundation corn inbred parents,” said Ray Foster, Monsanto seed site manager. “Our irrigation water comes from the watershed area, Northeast Molokai.  TNC has organized private land owners, public land administrators and their own preserve lands to form Watershed protection partnership.  Our contributions are leveraged to bring state and federal matching funds that directly benefit the island water shed areas.”

TNC’s work at Kamakou Preserve, in collaboration with the public and private landowners of the East Molokai Watershed Partnership, is focused on invasive animal and weed control.

“Molokai’s forested watersheds today are under constant assault from established and new invasive species,” said Ed Misaki, TNC’s Molokai Program Director. “Feral ungulates (hoofed animals) like wild pigs, goats and deer are steadily eroding fragile topsoil. Once this soil disturbance occurs, invasive plants that did not evolve here, like blackberry and strawberry guava, steadily displace our native forests and watersheds. Once lost, they may be impossible to fully restore at any price.”

Added Foster: “It encompasses an island land area with diverse ecologies.  The most impressive being rain forest preserve lands with very high rainfall and numerous endemic species of plants and wildlife found nowhere else on earth.”

The Monsanto Fund’s gift allows TNC to leverage an additional $40,000 in matching funds from the state’s Natural Area Partnership Program, essentially tripling the value of the grant to a total of $60,000. 

The funding enables TNC to collect important data about the progress of their conservation efforts using Global Positioning System technology and inspect, maintain and improve fencing that protects the rainforest from feral animals. In 2011, the Conservancy surveyed more than 17 miles of fence in and around Kamakou Preserve. In addition, the funding allows for removal of ungulates and invasive species from protected areas; coordinate community outreach and education activities such as an annual Earth Day event; distribute a biannual newsletter to all residents; and lead monthly hikes, school field trips and volunteer activities in Kamakou Preserve.

“We commend The Nature Conservancy’s director Ed Misaki and his staff for their dedication, perseverance and accomplishments over the years in preserving and restoring Molokai’s critical watershed,” said Dawn Bicoy, Monsanto community affairs manager. “This remarkable team understands the problems that impact our island’s watershed and continue to provide tangible long-term solutions to ensure water for future generations. Their important work impacts all our lives, and our company’s employees are extremely proud to support their efforts.”

Foster said this work is important to Monsanto because many of the precommercial seeds the company uses are grown in this region, and fit with the Monsanto’s sustainability pledge.

“The Monsanto seed crops grown in Hawaii, particularly on Molokai are the precommercial parent seed varieties that will ultimately provide desirable products for Monsanto seed sales in the years to come,” Foster said. “Our operations here are entirely dependent on a sustainable and sufficient water resource for irrigation.  Equally important is the preservation of the endemic plant and bird life species that live in the watershed lands. They exist only in Hawaii. The TNC preserve and their work on Molokai is a shining example of cooperation between private enterprise and a non profit – providing water resources to agriculture and preserve endangered habitats.”

More information about Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of Monsanto, and its activities can be found at the Fund’s web site. More information about the Nature Conservancy and its programs in Hawaii can be found at the TNC web site.

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