OHE April 6, 2000 (Honouliuli)

Date: Thu, 6 Apr 2000 08:30:08 -1000
From: JFEL873@aol.com (Jay Feldman)
Subject: The Nature Conservancy's Honouliuli Preserve

As Bill Gorst, Charlotte Yamane, and I headed west on H-1 last Wednesday, we could see and feel the weather front that later in the week would soak our good friends hiking in Haleakala. We were headed for The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) base yard in Kunia to meet Dan Sailor and Nat Pak two of their coordinators. Our goal for the day was to find out more about TNC's efforts to maintain and improve the Honouliuli Preserve through volunteer efforts and do some hiking on the Palikea trail. Nat and Dan were offering a workshop to train Worktrip Leaders in stair building and trail improvement.

Arriving at their converted baseyard office a little early, we were greeted with coffee and friendly conversation. Both Nat and Dan were young, energetic and looking at us with thoughtful eyes. After all, the three of us are in the mid fifties to mid sixties and beginning to show it. I was sporting a new (i.e. clean) pair of those bright orange woven gloves and Bill has been hiking so long that he is long past testing new equipment and carries a time worn array of gear. Charlotte, given the chill of the day and her distinct lack of adipose insulation gave something of the appearance of a bag lady, wattled up in at least five layers of shirts, sweaters, jackets, and rain gear. As if our appearance wasn't bad enough, to review their hand-outs Charlotte and I has to pass her reading glasses back and forth while Bill held his at arm's length. Any wonder they just didn't cancel the day given potential insurance revocation for abusing the local old folks home.

Nevertheless, as we sat and discussed TNC's activities I got a first hand account of the Honouliuli preserve which is located between 1,200 and 3,100 feet elevation on the eastern slope of the Wai'anae Mountains. The preserve's almost 4,000 acres are leased for up to 50 years from the Campbell Estate and is located in one of the most botanically interesting areas of the entire island chain. It specifically protects six native natural communities where sixty-six rare plants have been recorded, twenty of which had not been seen for 15 or more years, and 40 are listed as endangered. It is the domain of a rare Hawaiian tree snail and lobelia plant found nowhere else on the planet or in the cosmos (multiple universes exempted). Native bird species include the pueo (owl), 'elepaio (flycatcher), and 'apapane and 'amakihi (honeycreepers).

Unfortunately and grievously, the native bio-diversity of the preserve is threatened by aggressive alien flora and animals. The plant aggressors are well known to hikers and include clidemia, lantana, christmas berry, guava, passion vine, and the fire tree. The animal threat primarily comes from pigs, rats, mongooses, alien birds, pest insects, and sadly, careless hikers and trespassers who too often bring fire, invasive plant seeds (on their boots or clothing) and even vandalism to the preserve.

Nevertheless, TNC sees as it's duty the revival of native biodiversity in the preserve and realizes it can only do that with assistance from the public through what they call community partnerships. That is, using concerned volunteer citizens to remove alien plants and animals, re-introduce native species, and help educate the public on the importance of preservation.

TNC is doing this in part by conducting a series of training sessions for Volunteer Worktrip Leaders; people who agree to oversee and assist volunteers who want to revive Honouliuli. Volunteers who can help with: trail repair and clearing; planting native flora; weed control; seed collection; etc. The three of us as long time members of HTMC's trail clearing crew, felt we were naturals for these jobs and so we thought we'd check it out

We headed out for Palikea in the TNC's very nice Chevy SUV, filling the back with the tools and materials we would need. We headed through Makakilo and then as we wound our way up the eastern slope of the Wai'anaes the air cooled and dampened. Arriving at the trailhead, we unloaded some pulaskis, a hazel hoe, stakes, small sledge, and some of those 2x6 planks made from recycled plastic. We were about to build some steps. They don't look like much when you're walking on them, but putting in those steps is quite a science. More to it then meets the eye. As we warmed to the task, Charlotte began to thin down as she shed some excess layers. It was a little chilly, misty, and we had some rain, but we still worked up a sweat and completed several very professional looking steps in the process.

As we approached lunch time, Dan suggested we gather our tools and move up the trail to a nice overlook of Pu'u Heleakala from the back side. A view I had never seen before. Turning in the other direction was Pearl Harbor laid out before us with a view up the entire coastal plain to Diamond Head. While eating we discussed their work at the preserve as well as the continuing need for help from akamai hikers from HTM, Sierra Club, SoleMates, and other groups. As I relaxed in the breeze and intermittent sunshine I read some of the materials handed out that morning. The history of TNC was fascinating.

It seems that back in the early '50s a group of ecologists came up with a simple, elegant, and non-confrontational plan to protect and preserve plants, animals, and their natural communities. By getting like-minded people to donate money and energy they BOUGHT pristine or challenged acreage and placed it under a protective umbrella in perpetuity. You don't have to fight off commercial interests when you own the land, and no one can keep you from putting time and resources into returning it to a state of balance and natural diversity, and keeping it there. From an initial 60 acre land purchase almost fifty years ago, The Nature Conservancy today manages 1,600 preserves and has helped to protect over 9 million acres in the US and Canada; and over 60 million acres worldwide. More than 800,000 people, some of them OHE members, support this ongoing effort.

We moved on through lovely bamboo and then ironwood groves onto the rolling Palikea trail itself. Nat demonstrated to us how we could widen the hardpacked trail and add some water runoffs. We worked on these projects for the remainder of the training/work session finishing our day at about 2:30 and began our trek back to the vehicle. The day had turned pleasant and Dan and Nat briefed us on the fence that was in the process of being built.

Unlike some agencies, TNC's 2.7 acre exclosure will neither block nor be visible from any regularly used trails. The fence is to protect the largest known population of the endangered plant called Haha (Cyanea grimesiana ssp. obatae) from the feral pigs in the area who would love to root up its domain. They promised we would have ample opportunity to learn how to build and oversee volunteer efforts at fence building. In fact a number of Wednesdays and Saturdays in April and May have been set aside for building the fence and more stairs. Volunteers for Worktrip Leadership training and just plain grunt work are needed. Nat or Dan can be reached at the workyard by phone at: 677-1674 or via email at: npak@tnc.org OR dsailer@tnc.org

Charlotte, Bill and I were extremely impressed with the professionalism and excellence of the TNC's efforts at Honouliuli. We are hooked and plan to attend the April 12th session to learn the art of exclosure, that is: fence building. Call Nat or Dan and see if you can help.


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