Preserving the Paniolo


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We recently received permission, after years of work, to release an insect to control fireweed. Fireweed is a nasty plant. It produces alkaloids that are toxic to cattle and horses. It can dominate the landscape if it it's given a bare patch of ground and it is extremely, extremely drought tolerant. There are many people that do not agree with what I do for a living, biocontrol, but there are some hard truths: there are some plants and animals that cause tremendous change to the environment. We can do things like spray pesticides or let the problem grow until we forget it is even a problem and over time just accept it for what it is. 

Fireweed is different though. This is not just about controlling a weed, protecting the environment, saving cattle and horses. It is about a way of life. The paniolo, the Hawaiian cowboy is as iconic to Hawaiʻi as it is the West. The paniolo way of life is under siege. They are faced with drought, the rising cost of feed, the rising cost of land, and weeds galore. It is hard, really hard, to be a paniolo right now, but this insect, Secusio extensa, is a glimmer of hope. 

There is still a long road ahead for the paniolo, but we're going to walk, or preferably ride on horseback, that road with them. With so much change happening in Hawaiʻi and the world, losing the paniolo is losing too much of Hawaiʻi. 


Links:

KITV Preview with Jill Kuramoto using my line "Weapon of Mass Defoliation". I couldn't copy right it in time. 

KITV News report by Jill Kuramoto

Press release by Senator Daniel K. Inouye whose support of the project has been so critical. 

Brief KHON report

© Darcy Oishi 2018