Saturday, June 9, 2001

Nature Conservancy
head to quit

Rex Johnson helped build
awareness about alien species

Star-Bulletin staff

Rex Johnson, executive director of the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, will resign July 2.

Conservancy Board Chairman Jeff Watanabe said an interim director will be named shortly and that a search for a new executive director will begin immediately.

Johnson started at the conservancy in 1994 after serving as director of the state Department of Transportation.

Last year, the conservancy played a prominent role in establishing and acquiring funding for the new 4,525-acre Oahu Forest National Wildlife Refuge in the Koolau Mountains -- the first national refuge protecting native forests on Oahu. In December the property was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Under Johnson the conservancy invested heavily in watershed partnerships on East and West Maui and East Molokai. The partnerships helped protect 150,000 acres of native forest that are primary sources of water for these islands.

Johnson also worked with other state and federal agencies to build public awareness about alien species and helped garner political support and funding to fight threats such as brown tree snakes and the invasive plant miconia.

The conservancy is working on purchasing the Big Island's 117,000-acre Kahuku Ranch.

If acquired, the ranch would be transferred to the National Park Service as an addition to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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