In February 2020, the State of Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources, led by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (State), the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region (Forest Service), and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Pacific Islands Area (NRCS) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Shared Stewardship.

The MOU codifies the agencies’ joint commitment to an integrated approach that prioritizes investments and connects with other partners to achieve the greatest impact on the priorities in the Hawai’i State Forest Action Plan (FAP) and Hawai’i Interagency Biosecurity Plan. In particular, the MOU formalizes the agencies’ mutual agreement to focus on the following landscape-scale priorities to advance shared stewardship:

  • Biosecurity and protection of Hawaii’s watersheds;
  • Forests sustaining Hawaii’s; and
  • Connecting people to forests.

The absence of National Forest System (NFS) lands in Hawai’i provides a unique opportunity to implement the Forest Service “Toward Shared Stewardship Across Landscapes: An Outcome-based Investment Strategy” (Strategy). While there is no physical land base that the Forest Service is responsible for, the Agency and the State have long worked together through the Forest Service State and Private Forestry program and the Pacific Southwest Research Station to support state and private forest management in Hawai’i. The MOU reinforces these relationships and recognizes new opportunities to engage with other Forest Service program areas, such as leveraging NFS expertise gathered from the U.S. mainland.

The content on this webpage was drafted and finalized in May 2021​. Return to WFLC shared stewardship landing page


The conversations to develop a Shared Stewardship MOU were initiated between the Forest Service and the State. NRCS contacted the State early in the process to express interest in joining an MOU and participating in subsequent shared stewardship activities. Additionally, the State’s strong relationships with the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station and the Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry presented an opportunity to include research entities in Hawaii’s shared stewardship actions.

When crafting the MOU, the agencies’ sought to construct a framework that:

  • Remains committed to established relationships and partnerships;
  • Supports new partnership opportunities; and
  • Aligns and elevates a short list of mutually shared landscape-scale priorities to focus resources and coordination on. 

The FAP and the Hawai’i Interagency Biosecurity Plan were the foundational documents utilized to determine the three shared landscape-scale priorities. The MOU is intended to be a living document that will evolve as projects are implemented, other partners become involved, and as additional shared priorities arise.


The MOU outlines three landscape-scale priorities that agencies and partners will take action to jointly address.

  • Biosecurity and protection of Hawaii’s watersheds - Hawaii’s forests are especially vulnerable to invasive species, including plants, pathogens, feral ungulates, and insects. The Hawai’i Interagency Biosecurity Plan outlines needs related to prevention, early detection, and rapid response, as well as management of long-established species that disrupt the State’s ecosystems.
  • Forests sustaining Hawai’i - Hawaii’s forests provide critical resources and ecosystem services, such as forest products and fresh water that replenishes aquifers and supports Hawaii’s residents and the tourism and agriculture industries. Investments in targeted projects will help to sustain native species, support community economic needs, and contribute to the State’s Sustainable Hawai’i Initiative goals for increased fresh water capacity, sustainable communities, carbon sequestration, renewable energy, and more.
  • Connecting people to forests – People are flocking to Hawaii’s forests and wildland areas. The influx creates significant challenges and stressors on Hawaii’s ecosystems and local communities, and recreation management has been unable to keep pace. Through this priority, the State intends to leverage the lessons learned, resources, tools, and management options utilized on NFS lands and apply them to recreation on the Hawaiian Islands.

Various financial resources have been utilized to complete projects linked to the Shared Stewardship MOU. Examples include Forest Service State and Private Forestry funding (Forest Legacy Program and Urban & Community Forestry Program), NRCS (Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program), and the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership.

There is no formal governance structure tasked with implementing the MOU. The agencies’ have identified shared stewardship leads within their respective staffs, and the staff work with their peers, counterparts, and other partners.


The FAP includes a state-wide assessment of Hawaii’s forest conditions, identifying both threats and areas of priority within the State, and the strategies for addressing those threats. The FAP coupled with the Hawai’i Biosecurity Interagency Plan delineate the priority areas for targeted treatments to be completed under the Shared Stewardship MOU.

Data collected by existing programs, including the Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis Program and Forest Health Management, are also utilized for shared stewardship purposes. For example, forest health aerial surveys are used to identify new areas of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, a damaging fungal pathogen.

Communicating the ecosystem service benefits provided by healthy forests will be a critical component to shared stewardship in Hawai’i. The Forest Service is developing models and tools to capture these benefits and plans to utilize them in collaboration with the State and partners.

Partnerships, Programs, and Initiatives

Fundamental Strategy concepts, including shared decision-making, leveraging limited resources, and cooperating with partners, are not new to Hawaii’s residents and land managers. They have long been integrated into island tradition and culture. The Shared Stewardship MOU upholds this approach by stating that the agencies “will collaborate, coordinate, and work jointly with each other and with other stakeholders - including sister agencies at federal and state levels, as well as private landowners, counties, non-governmental organizations, communities, and universities - to identify and carry out projects to improve and protect forest and watershed conditions, ensure that Hawaii’s forests continue their role in sustaining life and livelihoods in the islands, and that connect people to forests.”

Existing partnerships, programs, and initiatives are being utilized to support projects and actions linked to the MOU:

  • The Hawai’i Invasive Species Council coordinates activities to address the biosecurity and protection of Hawaii’s watersheds; 
  • The Hawai’i Association of Watershed Partnerships, a public/private landowner partnership to voluntarily manage lands for the purpose of recharging ground and surface water resources, is a critical group to coordinate actions with to sustain Hawaii’s forests;
  • The Citizen Forester Program connects people to forests by supporting and encouraging community members to become forestry leaders; and
  • The FAP and the Hawai’i Interagency Biosecurity Plan are centerpieces to the MOU.

Additionally, the agencies and partners are pursuing new partnership and program alignment opportunities. The State is coordinating with the Forest Service on recreation management as well as actions to increase youth engagement in Hawaii’s natural resources. NRCS has a number of critical programs for private forest landowners that expands the reach of what shared stewardship can accomplish. The State collaborates closely with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and foresees possible opportunities to engage APHIS in shared stewardship actions. Together, the agencies and partners are also exploring how the MOU can enhance cross-pollination of information and improve the collective knowledge of the numerous programs available to help reach the goals in the MOU.

Tips for WFLC Members

When crafting a Shared Stewardship MOU, do not let perfect be the enemy of good. Find commonalities in the issues and programs that state and federal agencies and partners have and start working. The framework can be simple, with the flexibility to adapt to changes, new information, and emerging priorities over time.

Develop key messages about how the Shared Stewardship MOU and subsequent actions elevate current work. While the concepts of shared stewardship are not new, communicate how the MOU goes beyond business-as-usual to achieve identified forest and watershed management outputs and outcomes.

Finally, take the time to celebrate the successes along the way. Celebrating the successes and accomplishments achieved through shared stewardship generates additional interest, support, and buy-in

Learn More

To learn more about shared stewardship in Hawai'i, please contact the State and Forest Service contacts listed below:

Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife
David Smith
Forestry and Wildlife Administrator
1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 325
Honolulu, HI 96813

USDA Forest Service Region 5
Randy Moore
Regional Forester
1323 Club Drive
Vallejo, CA 94592