Hawai’i Island Conservation Forum 11/12/13

Pilina Graphic.001

Pilina, a Hawaiian word meaning “union, connection, joining, fitting,” describes the objective of this first-ever Hawaiʻi Island Conservation Forum. We are coming together to connect our places, our people, and our work.

This is an opportunity for us all to come together on the Big Island — resource managers, community supporters, field crews, policy makers, research scientists — to share the work being done across our island to care for our natural resources, from the mountains to the sea.

Our island has excellent examples of how relationships help us create stronger, more lasting programs. Our presenters will share who they are and where they work, and inspire us with the way they do their work: building the capacity of their communities, forging new partnerships between the public and private sectors, and innovating new models for enterprise within the context of conservation.

We hope this forum will serve as a next step forward toward creating an island-wide conservation hui. Please join us and be a part of growing something big on our island.

Location: Kahilu Theater, Waimea

Schedule for the day
9:00-9:15 Registration & Coffee
9:15-11:45 Presentations by conservation groups
11:45-12:30 Lunch
12:30-1:00 Featured Speaker
1:00-2:00 Discussion Forum

Cost: $10 per person (includes lunch)
Please reserve your place by November 4, 2013.

Click here to follow the link to the registration page.

Increased State funding for watershed protection!


“This is a chance to be proactive about protecting our forested watershed. It’s a way to think ahead and plan ahead, rather than cleaning up the mess we have made, which is what a lot of our environmental issues are about.” – Melora Purell, KWP coordinator

Hawaii lawmakers are moving ahead with the Rain Follows the Forest plan, increasing the amount of funding going towards protection and restoration of forested watersheds across the State!

Read more about it here. http://westhawaiitoday.com/sections/news/local-news/state-budget-increases-funds-forest-watershed-protection.html

Photo: Kukui Keliihoomalu, KWP field crew, with a view into the windward valleys of Kohala Mountain.

Finding a natural balance: fireweed biocontrol on Kohala is supported by local ranchers

Fireweed biocontrolKWP partners and staff gathered recently to welcome the newest residents in the pastures of Kohala:  a bunch of furry black caterpillars. These larvae of the Madagascan fireweed moth, Secusio extensa, are from the home range of a damaging invasive weed known locally as “fireweed.” This daisy relative has invaded pastures across the Big Island, and not only reduces edible forage for cattle, but is also toxic to livestock.

Three KWP ranching partners (Kahua Ranch, Ponoholo Ranch, and Parker Ranch) are working with the State Department of Agriculture to rear these insects in cages, hoping to raise a population in the millions to deal with the 850,000 acre infestation of fireweed on the Big Island.

The public often expresses to me great skepticism about the intentional importation of a new insect to our islands, and their concern is appreciated! In the past, there was little knowledge or understanding of the importance of controlling the spread of new weeds, new insects, or new animals to our islands, and some of our worst invaders were accidentally introduced.

The idea behind biocontrol is to find the “perfect” natural balance for an invasive species. This means sending explorers to places like Madagascar to learn about the natural predators, parasites and diseases that keep a species’ population under control in its home range. The core reason that a non-native species becomes invasive is that it moved to a new location where it had no natural controls on its population. So our goal is to find something like that natural balance here in its new home.

This is the case with this great little caterpillar. It has been undergoing tests for over a decade to make sure it won’t eat anything useful or native to Hawaii. In quarantine, it was offered all kinds of plants as food, and in every case, this little bug won’t touch anything but fireweed and a couple other weeds.

The greatest story I heard about this process is the descriptions of fireweed in its home range in Madagascar.  On that island, you can’t find fields yellow with fireweed like you do here, because the native insects keep its population to a couple yellow clumps in every field – which is the goal for Hawaii, too.

Read more here: http://westhawaiitoday.com/sections/news/local-news/moths-versus-fireweed-state-uses-biological-control-help-protect-pastures

Photo: KWP partners and staff observe the rearing cages for the fireweed biocontrol, a moth named Secusio extensa.

State Tree Nursery growing plants for more than 50 years in Waimea

Toni in STN from NHN story

We want people to have the right tree for the right place.”    – Toni McPeek, STN crew leader

KWP’s home base for field operations is the Kamuela State Tree Nursery (STN). State workers have been growing trees in Waimea for more than 50 years, and have met the changing challenges over the years.  From the 60s through the 90s, the philosophy of “grow them fast” prevailed. Exotic trees like eucalyptus, ironwood, ornamental olive, and Cook pines were propagated to quickly replace forests that were decimated by plantations and ranches. It was “against the rules” to grow native species at that time.

The “renaissance” of native plants started in the 1990’s and continues to grow. Currently, tens of thousands of native trees are grown at the STN, for reforestation on both large and small scales. Nursery professionals have fine-tuned the process of propagating natives, from dryland trees to wet forest species.

Read more about the work of our KWP partners in the North Hawaii News story here.

All Together Now! KWP Partners, Crew, and Volunteers share a work day in the forest.



On Saturday, November 17th, KWP staff, partners and community volunteers gathered at Ponoholo Ranch, a founding KWP partner, to share a day of work and fun. Joining the KWP staff and a group of veteran volunteers in the field were Pono von Holt, his daughter Sabrina, and ranch employees Chris and Jason.

We started the day with a survey of two native species once thought extinct, but rediscovered  — and now protected —on this land:  the endemic tree snail pūpūkanioe, Partulina physa, and the rare oha wai plant, Clermontia singuliflora. Both snail and tree have found a natural sanctuary here on the windward slopes of Kohala — a place where the cooling mists blanket the valley walls, and tree leaves drip with moisture. The best moment of the morning was when Chris found a baby snail enveloped in the leaves of one of the baby outplanted oha wai ! !

We spent the rest of the morning surveying the upper sections of the Kaneaʻa-Ponoholo Preserve, and controlling kahili ginger. After a quick photo op, we headed back to the ranch to share  a meal and recognize our most dedicated volunteers, who have donated hundreds of hours to the work of KWP over the years.

50 Hour Awards:  John Kloppenborg, Ralph and Gladys Quistorff

75 Hour Award: Jean Bassen

150 Hour Award (Golden Sickle): Christine Ahia

250 Hour Award (Golden Sickle): David Stubbs

CONGRATULATIONS to our partners for their commitment to conservation, to our staff for their hard work, and to our volunteers, who donate their time and enthusiasm to our efforts.

KWP volunteers really Made a Difference!

What a great day we had last Saturday!  It was the national “Make a Difference Day”, and we certainly did make a difference.  On Friday, 21 students and teachers from Parker School came out to help.  We cleared a whole bunch of invasive lantana in the gulch and then prepared planting sites for the following day.  On Saturday, we had a huge crowd of 50 people, including students from Waimea Middle, UH-Hilo, and HCC, as well as our stalwart Starbucks volunteers!

We planted about 150 koaia trees and 250 a’ali’i shrubs along the stream, and cleared much more lantana.  We also added steps and water bars to places where the trail is eroding significantly.

It was a truly terrific weekend of service.  Two local papers covered the event.  Links below:

North Hawaii News:  http://northhawaiinews.com/news/making-make-a-difference-day-count.html

West Hawaii Today: http://westhawaiitoday.com/sections/news/local-news/restoring-kohala.html

Harbor Gallery supports KWP with another donation!


Photo: Harbor Gallery owner Gunner Mench (R) presents a check to KWP coordinator Melora Purell, and KWP volunteer Robert Elarco at the Kohala Country Fair last weekend.

Gunner and Elli Mench, our friends at Harbor Gallery in Kawaihae, have been supporting KWP with outreach and raising funds for our watershed restoration efforts. Twice a year, Harbor Gallery has a Wood Show in the gallery, featuring local artists, using local woods.  As part of their commitment to the reforestation of the watershed, and in hopes of seeing a change in the water quality of nearby Pelekane Bay, they have been donating 10% of the profits of the wood show to the watershed partnership.  These funds help us grow native plants, and support our volunteer work days at which we plant thousands of native species every year. Their ongoing commitment has reached more than $19,000!

Mahalo, Gunner and Eli, for your generosity and commitment to KWP!

Why do you volunteer with KWP?

All those smiling faces!  What is going on here?  We asked our volunteers why they come out and join us in doing our work on the mountain, and these are some of the things they said:

It’s healthy for the body and soul.

Yes, we give you an opportunity to sweat. We wield shovels, picks, and machetes. We dig, we walk, we whack weeds. There is a less concrete aspect to our work, too. As we focus our energies on repairing the land, our spirits are filled by the power and beauty of the natural world around us. Yup. Spiritual work. Good for the soul.

Because people have done damage, and it’s up to people to make it better. It’s a good feeling to contribute to that, even if on a small scale.

We have learned that the intentions of our work are essential to positive outcomes. Many people volunteer because they have a sense of responsibility to care for the land. Spending a day planting trees or killing weeds feels pono, feels right. Making the choice to step out, to show up, to grab that shovel. That’s no small scale stuff.

Everyone involved are very professional, motivated, and positive.

The staff and crew of KWP are inspired by our volunteers, too.  They give us a fresh perspective on our daily work; they breathe new life into our routine.  We all love working with our community volunteers!

And the simplest one to share. Needs no explanation:

It makes me happy.

Reversing extinction, one plant at a time

“Some people think that an endangered plant or animal is destined for extinction, that it’s weak or unable to adapt, and that its time is up. But I think that’s backwards. These are the strong ones, the survivors.  Now we have a chance to show our respect for these natives, and help them re-establish their populations.”  — Melora Purell, KWP Coordinator

Just 30 individuals of a rare native bellflower once thought extinct were rediscovered on Parker Ranch lands in North Kohala in the summer of 2010. A year later, seeds that had been collected from those plants were germinating and growing at the Rare Plant Facility in Volcano. And just nine months after that, 169 keiki plants are now residing back in their home range on Kohala Mountain, effectively multiplying the wild population by about seven times.

This flowering shrub, Clermontia singuliflora, one of the genus of plants known in Hawaiian as oha wai, was once common in wet forests on all parts of the island of Hawaii. Its population shrunk due to deforestation, and was further reduced by the presence of cattle and other hoofed animals. This oha wai was last seen in forests on the Hamakua Coast about a hundred years ago, and since the 1970‘s was presumed extinct.

To fund the restoration effort, the Kohala Watershed Partnership (KWP) received a $7,550 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which covered most of the cost of a protective fence, and the labor to prepare the 10-acre site, and install and monitor the plants.

The project is taking place on land owned by Parker Ranch, one of the founding members of KWP, a coalition of nine private land owners and public land managers founded in 2003. KWP partners and staff jointly work to protect the forested watersheds of Kohala Mountain from threats like invasive plants, feral ungulates, and fire.

Parker Ranch and other private land owners in KWP have set aside some of their land for the purpose of regeneration of native forests, said Brandi Beaudet, land manager for Parker Ranch, Inc. “We are proud to partner with KWP in this effort to rebuild the population of this rare plant,” he said.

Come on up! Plant and Hike with KWP: 8/11/12

Come Plant and Hike with KWP!
Volunteer Work Day at the Koaia Corridor

Join us on Saturday, August 11, for a volunteer work day on Kohala Mountain. We will be heading uphill to the wetter areas of the Koaia Corridor. KWP partners, staff and volunteers have been planting in this 350-acre restoration area for the past four years.

Meet at the back parking lot of the Kohala Center (65-1291a Kawaihae Rd) in Waimea at 8:30. We will load up the trucks, plant native trees in the morning,
and take a hike in the rain forest (if the weather cooperates) or in the Koaia Sanctuary after lunch. The work involves hiking through deep grass and digging holes for plants. We can team up to get the job done no matter your skill, fitness or experience! We will finish by 3:00 and return to Waimea by 3:30.

Bring water, lunch, sturdy shoes, and a jacket. We will provide plants, tools, gloves and snacks. RSVP by Thursday, Aug 9 to reserve your spot.