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Gov. David Ige declares Maui County a disaster area due to persistent drought conditions

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Gov. David Ige has issued an emergency proclamation declaring Maui County a disaster area due to drought conditions.

The governor issued the proclamation on Wednesday due to persistent drought conditions since March 2019, which has resulted in significant economic loss for Maui ranchers and farmers, as well as a crisis due to starving axis dear on Molokai.

With the proclamation, the state is able to provide relief from disaster damages, losses, and suffering caused by the disaster, as well as protect the health, safety and welfare of the people.

“Maui County’s farmers and ranchers are very grateful to Governor Ige for signing the emergency drought proclamation,” said Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino in a news release. “Since this drought started nearly two years ago, our agricultural sector has sustained substantial pasture and crop damage from Axis deer in search of food. Molokai has especially been impacted by starvation and death in its deer population. This proclamation helps us to overcome regulatory barriers and it can unlock state and federal funding to mitigate some of their financial losses. We appreciate the governor’s help in solving these problems.”

The axis deer, which are non-native and have no natural predators, have migrated into agricultural and developed areas out of desperation, further devastating farms. Hundreds of the deer have died, a news release said, and their decomposing carcasses threaten to contaminate streams and waters.

“Given the severity of this issue, Rep. DeCoite and I have been working hard to get the deer situation on Molokai and in other areas of Maui County under control, said state Sen. J. Kalani English, who represents the area, in a statement. “I appreciate the swift actions of both Governor Ige and Mayor Victorino in helping to find solutions.”

State officials from the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife in December said they suspected – and received confirmation from a Department of Agriculture veterinarian — that the deer were dying of starvation due to the extreme drought experienced over the summer.

DOFAW had been receiving reports of dead deer found on roadways and private lands on Molokai.

Although forecasters have predicted a wetter-than-average rainfall season for the next few months, parts of West Maui are still experiencing abnormally dry to severe drought conditions, and parts of Molokai are still suffering from severe to extreme drought, in December.

“The drought has hit Maui County hard, and I am declaring it a disaster area so we can take immediate measures to reduce and control the axis deer populations and to remove and dispose of the carcasses quickly,” said Ige in the news release.

The emergency proclamation remains in effect through March 28.

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