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The critical importance of FENCES – a photo essay

Pelekane fence 2014

This is one of those times when the picture says a thousand words. This is our northern boundary fence of the Pelekane Bay watershed restoration area. Within the 6600 acres inside the fence (on the left in the photo), we have reduced the population of feral goats to nearly zero. On the right, the wild goat population is uncontrolled. Now imagine that it is raining here. Which side of the fence is going to have the most erosion? Which downstream coral reef is going to be most affected by sedimentation?

Kaneaa fenceline.Patricia

This photo shows the fence line that separates the Kaneaʻa- Ponoholo Preserve on the left from the areas infested with feral cattle on the right.  This one you can see clearly on satellite imagery like Google Earth.


And, of course, the sight we are so accustomed to seeing at the tops of the pastures on Kohala. Can you imagine what it would be like if the ranchers and foresters did not put up those fences 100 years ago? Would we have any intact native forest remaining?


A more subtle impact of fencing is in wet forest areas where fences have helped to exclude feral pigs from native forest. Only after a fence has been in place for awhile can you realize what has been missing from the picture. After pigs have been removed, the forest heals from the ground up. Ferns and mosses recover on the forest floor, baby trees start to sprout (like the young ʻoha wai in the photo), and there is less bare ground. Some species that were not present in areas with feral pigs will once again start to grow, like the hōʻi‘o ferns you see here.

Feral animals are here to stay in Hawai‘i, and some of them provide food and sport for many local residents. By building fences, the partners and staff of KWP have the opportunity to protect natural resources whose survival is not compatible with these feral animals, but fences also represent a huge financial investment, and a long-term commitment to control of feral animals,  maintenance of the fences, and management of the ecosystems within them.

Photos by KWP staff and interns, of sites on Kohala Mountain.


KWP Teen Leadership Program 2014

Do you love to walk in the forest and wade in streams? Are you the “crazy” one amongst your friends who doesn’t complain when you get caught in the rain? Do you like bugs, slugs, plants, and mud? Do you like doing physical work to build things? Can you be a positive leader for younger kids? YES?! Then the Teen Leadership Program is for you!

WHO – The program is designed for teens who have connected with KWP over the years, either through school science projects, Waimea Nature Camp, and/or environmental service programs. This is a chance to work with camp leaders, the KWP field crew, and research scientists to extend and deepen your interests and experience.

Application – Students entering grades 9-12 who have had at least one field experience with KWP are eligible to apply. Online applications will be due May 7, 2014. There are no fees for this program, but all participants and their families will be required to sign a program agreement form.

To Bring – Teens will bring a sack lunch and water every day that they work, and must provide their own appropriate field gear (backpack, boots, and rain gear).

Schedule- Days start and end at The Kohala Center office in Waimea. All teens will attend a required overnight training session from June 4-6. After that point, all participants will have the chance to craft their own summer schedules based on their interests and availability. Required end-of-summer event for all teens and their ohana on Saturday, August 9.

 Click here to apply.


Summer 2014 Field Crew Internships — we are hiring!

Conservation Field Crew Intern (2):  These interns will be working with the KWP field crew. Work includes construction and maintenance of conservation fencing, biological monitoring, weed control, outplanting, irrigation, and sediment control.  Looking for hard-working individuals who enjoy manual work outdoors in extreme weather and rough terrain, and who are eager to learn about watershed conservation in Hawaii. Background and education in conservation biology is helpful, but not required. For more information about our current field projects, visit our website and Facebook page.

Interns will be short-term, full-time employees of The Kohala Center. Work hours are generally 7:30-3:30. Some weekend work will be required.

Dates of employment:  June 9 – August 8, 2014 (9 weeks)

Pay rate:  $12.00 per hour, plus benefits

To apply, please complete the online application form by April 25. Interviews will be scheduled the first week of May, and job offers will be by May 10.

Click here to go to the online application form.


Waimea Nature Camp is back!

Campers in the stream


“My daughter loves Nature Camp.  It gives her a chance to get out and play, to meet new people, to get dirty while learning and having fun.”

After a hiatus of two years, we are bringing back our beloved summer program, Waimea Nature Camp!

Waimea Nature Camp is for kids who like to learn about nature, climb trees, wade in streams, sing silly songs, create crafts from natural materials, and hike across fields, forests and bogs. We will explore our forests and streams, and learn about watersheds: the connections between the sky, the land and the sea. As always, a big part of nature camp is simply being kids, getting dirty, and playing together!

Philosophy – Waimea Nature Camp is rooted in values of respect for the earth and environment, service to the community, equality between people, and striving to understand nature and find peace.

Enrollment – Students entering grades 2-8 are encouraged to apply for the 20 positions each week in Summer Camp.  Applicants must be outdoor enthusiasts, willing to get wet and/or dirty, and to respect life in its many forms. Camp fee is $150 per week, and a range of scholarships are provided.

To Bring – Campers will bring a sack lunch and water every day, and will be provided with a healthy snack. Campers need to wear clothes and closed-toe shoes that can get very wet and dirty. Candy, soda, junk food, toys, fancy clothes or jewelry, and electronics are not permitted.

Schedule- Four weeks of camp run June 2 – June 27, 2014. Drop off between 8- 9 am; pick up at 3 pm at The Kohala Center office in Waimea. Every day, campers will be traveling on field trips to exciting natural locations . . to the streams, to the forests, to the mountains.  Most of our days will be spent on Kohala Mountain.

Applications are through an online application form.

Read more about our philosophy -Download the Waimea Nature Camp 2014 flyer

Want just the facts? Download the Summer 2014 Waimea Nature Camp logistics page

Click here to link to the online application.


An accidental photo record of reforestation at the Koai’a Corridor!

September 2007

It started with the very first KWP volunteer day. A bunch of community supporters showed up and planted trees in what was going to be a fenced restoration area at the Koai’a Corridor.  Just a plan at that time, but that didn’t stop our optimism.


April 2011

By this time, we had built our volunteer group from a couple dozen people to hundreds who had donated their time and energy and enthusiasm to the work of KWP. Starbucks started to join us on these days, too. The fence had been built for a couple years, but you can’t see the plants yet peeking above the grass.


April 2013

On the Earth Day volunteer planting, we were so excited to see the first signs of the native plants emerging from the grass. Our native plants and our community volunteer program are both thriving, and a forest is indeed growing here!


What will the photo look like for Earth Day 2014? Will you be there? Be part of the solution, and sign up to help us plant another 1000 trees in celebration!


One duck, one goose, one hawk: island isolation + extinction = “depauperate avifauna”

io in flightNative Hawaiian hawk, ʻio, hovers over my head to get a closer look. This resident hawk always “buzzes” us at least once when we wander into its territory along Honokāne Nui valley on Kohala Mountain.

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.

-Harry Nilsson

 Before the arrival of humans to the Hawaiian island a couple thousand years ago, birds ruled. Birds grazed the soft plants on the forest floor, flitted from flower to flower sipping nectar, dabbled in mountain streams, and cracked open the tough seeds of native plants. There were also predators: hawks, owls and eagles that preyed upon these other birds.

Today, less than half of Hawaiian species still exist, and populations of the remaining birds are not stable: they are threatened by habitat loss, climate change, introduced species, and disease.

On Kohala, we are left with one species of hawk, one species of duck, and one species of goose: ʻio, koloa maoli, and nēnē, and four honeycreepers: ʻapapane, ʻelepaio, ʻiʻiwi, and ʻamakihi. And that is it. Great for ease of remembering, but lousy for celebrating the amazing diversity of native Hawaiian bird species.

Good news abounds, however!

KWP recently received a grant to support protection of koloa maoli populations in windwards streams, where the birds are believed to be the most pure genetically (introduced mallard ducks have polluted their gene pool).

Hawaii State DLNR has recently relocated hundreds of nēnē from Kauai to the Big Island, doubling the population in just a few short years.

And ʻio, our Hawaiian hawk, has just been considered for de-listing from the Endangered Species List because its populations are considered stable.

In memory of the Hawaiian species that we will never have a chance to see:


ʻUla-ai-Hawane was a beautiful bird with dramatic, red, grey, black and white coloring , found in the forests of Kohala Mountain. Its main diet was the seeds of the native loulu palms, and as those plants became less and less common, it because extinct. Last seen on Kohala Mountain in the last 1800ʻs.



HAWPing to Moloka’i



L-R: Lisa Ferentinos (State DOFAW Watershed Partnerships Program), Cheyenne Perry (Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance), Yumi Miyata (Waianae Mountains Watershed Partnership), Ed Misaki (East Moloka’i Watershed Partnership), Melora Purell (Kohala Watershed Partnership), Colleen Cole (Three Mountain Alliance), Jordan Jokiel (Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership), Chris Brosius (West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership)

Seven of the ten watershed partnership coordinators got together on Moloka’i this past week, to connect our islands through sharing and planning for the future. The Hawai’i Association of Watershed Partnerships (HAWP) is a voluntary association of statewide watershed partnerships, whose mission is to support the partnerships through advocacy, training, and statewide planning.

What’s ahead for HAWP?  Look for a workshop on O’ahu in Fall 2014, focused on emerging technologies for visualization of the natural world. Stay tuned for more information to come. . .

On Moloka’i, we learned about

• the efforts to control feral goats — thousands removed from the south slopes, and real healing taking place on those watersheds;

• community-based restoration of ancient fish ponds;

• 30,000 deer and 7,000 people on Moloka’i: the impacts of that many animals to the island, and (how yummy they taste, too);

• new fencing projects on the south slope to isolate the high-elevation forested ridges from the impacts of feral animals (see photo below).



Abundant Rain & Flowing Water!

 Without at least some rain in any given day, or at least a cloud or two on the horizon, I feel overwhelmed by the information of sunlight and yearn for the vital, muffling gift of falling water.”
― Douglas CouplandLife After God

It is so exciting to get rain on leeward Kohala Mountain!  We don’t have our exact counts, but something like 4 inches fell in the past month, and we’ve had flowing water in Waiakamali Stream!  Yes, this is the stream that many of you have seen, but few have experienced as flowing water. So, I went up to the Koai’a Sanctuary with my camera to show you that indeed, water does run there after it rains!
Waiakamali Stream in Koaia Sanct

And with the rain, comes new life!  The mamane trees are blooming. . .

mamane blossom

My dog Robin offered to be a scale model to show the incredible growth of our a’ali’i keiki. My, how you’ve grown!

Robin demonstrates aalii growth

And there were abundant seeds on the soil, ready to sprout with this lovely rain. Here are some mamane seeds just waiting to sprout (or be collected for our reforestation project)!

mamane seeds

Come join us this Monday, January 20th for a volunteer work day in the Koai’a Sanctuary. RSVP to Melora by Thursday, January 16th to


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 — 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.

Hawai’i Island Conservation Forum
Kahilu Theater, Waimea
November 12, 2013

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 reserve your place.

The Kohala Watershed Partnership is a sponsored program of The Kohala Center.
The Kohala Center is an equal opportunity provider and employer.


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

Fireweed biocontrol

KWP 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:

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

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