Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

Baron Horiuchi Awarded Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence

May 14, 2013


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

Hilo, HI – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded the 2012 Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence to Baron Horiuchi for his scientific contributions toward native plant propagation and restoration at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, at a small ceremony on Monday, May 6, 2013.

Hakalau Forest NWR is one of the only locations where native Hawai‘i forest bird populations are stable or increasing. Koa forest restoration at Hakalau  creates a necessary hedge against extinction for many Hawaiian bird species and serves as a hopeful model of how Hawaiian forest may be restored elsewhere.

“Baron’s work at Hakalau has been instrumental in restoring Hawaiian forest and plants and the resulting increase in forest bird populations,” said Barry Stieglitz, Refuge Supervisor for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge System.

“Hakalau Forest supports a diversity of native forest bird species that is unparalleled in the islands, including one of the largest population of i‘iwi, Vestiaria coccinea, and the endangered Hawai‘i kepa, Loxops coccineus.”

Due to Horiuchi’s persistence and ingenuity, the populations of endangered plants such as the lobeliad Cyanea shipmanii, with only three known individuals in the wild, have increased 30-fold, elevating their potential for recovery and reducing their risk of extinction. More than 6,000 other plants of seven endangered species have been propagated from seeds and cuttings, greenhouse grown and out-planted into protected areas. Baron has spearheaded a successful program with many conservation partners and organized volunteer groups over the past 17 years in the management of the Hakalau Forest NWR greenhouse operation; volunteer weekends are fully booked a year in advance. The result of all these efforts is the return of forest habitat.

“We are honored that Baron has been recognized with this award,” said Robyn Thorson, Director of the Pacific Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “His work to return previously thought-to-be-extinct, endangered and unique native plants are an important part of the successful expansion of native forest and habitat for recovery of  forest birds at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge.”

Native forest birds have returned to an area that was open pasture from cattle grazing just 20 years ago. Many of the native bird species, such as ‘apapane, ‘i‘iwi, Hawai‘i ‘elepaio, and Hawai‘i ‘amakihi, are seen regularly within the replanted areas. In addition, the endangered Hawai‘i creeper and akiapōlā‘au regularly forage in the replanted koa groves.

A sign that says “laulima” hangs outside Horiuchi’s greenhouse. The sign was made for him by volunteers.

“Laulima means many hands. The work that I do would not be possible without our volunteers, and all of the other refuge staff,” said Horiuchi, “I am honored that they believe in me and this work.”

The Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence is an honorary award that recognizes individual Service employees or a group of employees who exemplify the best in scientific contribution and application to achieve extraordinary results in fish and wildlife conservation.

Those who receive the award must demonstrate that new information or data resulted from their efforts, that their scientific contribution was used to support the individual produced extraordinary conservation results for fish, wildlife and plants and the habitats on which they depend.

The Science Awards were established to recognize that effective wildlife management and conservation is founded on innovative scientific inquiry and principles. As the Service faces increasingly complex challenges, the value of current scientific information is rapidly increasing. The awards are meant to recognize the outstanding efforts of the agency’s scientists and technical staff.

For more information on Hakalau Forest NWR:

Hakalau Forest NWR was established in 1985 to protect and manage endangered Hawaiian forest birds and their rain forest habitat. Located on the windward slope of Mauna Kea, Island of Hawai‘i, the 32,733-acre Hakalau Forest Unit supports a diversity of native birds and plants equaled by only one or two other areas in the State of Hawaii. ight of the 14 native bird species occurring at Hakalau Forest NWR are endangered. Thirteen migratory bird species and 20 introduced species, including eight game birds, as well as the endangered ‘ope‘ape‘a (Hawaiian hoary bat) also frequent the refuge. Twenty-nine rare plant species are known from the refuge and adjacent lands. Twelve are currently listed as endangered. Two endangered lobelias have fewer than five plants known to exist in the wild.

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