A third-party audit initiated by the Maui County Council found that the efforts of Maui Invasive Species Committee to control or eradicate shell frogs do not have the necessary measures to determine the overall effectiveness of the program. The audit was forwarded to the board at its July 5 meeting and referred to the Committee for the preservation of the environment, agriculture and culture for further discussion.
While the audit recognized that “With over 47,000 hours of programmatic hours spent in 2018, there is no doubt that MISC’s efforts have had some impact on the containment and eradication of these species,” he said. added that the program did not give a satisfactory overall picture of the situation. the magnitude of this impact.
During fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the MISC received approximately $ 2.8 million in county grants to control the coqui population, in a combination of environmental protection grants ($ 1.8 million) and grants for the eradication of coqui ($ 1 million). However, the parameters for reporting coqui eradication grants only require that the MISC notify the Economic Development Office the number of acres treated, the number of man hours spent on the Maliko Gulch project, and the gallons of citric acid applied. “In the absence of context or targets to measure these numbers, it is difficult to determine the significance or ultimate impact of MISC’s efforts,” the audit said.
Grants for environmental protection require more nuanced reporting towards targets, but auditors continued to find that MISC’s reports lacked data to support its conclusions.
The obscurity surrounding the success of the program could impact public confidence, listeners said. Referring to the community’s concern over shell frog infestations that resulted in the board launching the audit, they wrote: “OED should be aware that its previous approvals and monitoring of grants are not not designed in a way that provides citizens or county officials with sufficient information to assess the spread or containment of Shell Frogs in Maui County. “
They continued, “Parameters that are vague, too broad or unrelated present the risk of eliciting unwanted reactions from the public and county officials: either 1) no progress is being made; or 2) no one knows if progress is being made. “
The audit ends with three recommendations. First, OED and MISC should work together to create quantifiable performance targets. Second, MISC and OED should agree on a timeline for areas to be 100% coqui-free, if that is the goal. Finally, the OED must ensure that it is properly monitoring the MISC and whether it is meeting its objectives.
While it all sounds simple, there are a few complicating factors. The first is that counting shell frogs is a difficult task. One-inch-long amphibians only make noises at night, and if they are counted by sound, that only counts for males (females are silent). MISC told listeners that it was considering using acoustic monitors to help with this task.
The other reason is more philosophical: has the county made a commitment to eradicate 100% of the coqui population of Maui?
“When asked if 100% eradication of the coqui frogs was achievable,” the auditors wrote, “MISC staff did not provide a definitive answer, but said they were continually reassessing their goals. depending on resources and funding. ”
Meanwhile, the price to pay for eradicating all the coqui frogs in Maliko gulch is between $ 4.6 million and over $ 15 million, the MISC said. Yet in the fiscal year 2020 budget, which took effect on July 1, the county appropriated only $ 2.5 million. Coqui Frog Eradication Project.
Do you hear that? Coqui, coqui …
Image courtesy Flickr / AngieShyRigh