Stories From The Field

Compiling Natural Resource Data for Watershed Strategies in Hawaii

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Streams are prominent features of the Hamakua region’s geology and cultural identity; however, historical land use practices and the introduction of invasive vegetation have degraded the resources. A development plan was created to direct rural community growth and reinvestment in agriculture, forestry, and tourism, while maintaining community character in this sparsely populated region. To inform the plan, the Hamakua community sought to better understand watershed strategies that would support these goals.


To identify streams that were already protected, streams needing more protections, and areas where restoration activities should be encouraged, planners employed the Habitat Priority Planner. The tool was used to look at land use controls that were already in place and to map managed areas and reserves within each subwatershed. Biodiversity data developed by the State of Hawaii helped to inform which subwatersheds might need additional protection, while stream assessments and up-to-date Coastal Change Analysis Program high-resolution land cover data helped identify subwatersheds that might benefit best from restoration activities.


The result of the effort was the development of watershed strategy maps that could be incorporated into a larger suite of community development plan maps. Watershed strategy maps that identified subwatersheds as “Already Protected,” “Needs Protection,” and “Encourage Restoration” stimulated dialogue about stream health as part of a greater conversation about invigorating rural economic development and retaining community character.

Map of Hawaii Island’s Hamakua Planning Area showing subwatersheds that may have high restoration potential based on stream or land cover characteristics.
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