OHE October 12, 1999 (Peahinaia)

Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 05:09:46 -1000
From: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (802005%cchpd@co.honolulu.hi.us>
Subject: pe'ahinai'a


A group of Army civilian enviromental team members, DLNR people, and four volunteers spent three days this week (Oct 5-7) up in the vicinity of the Pe'ahinai'a Trail/Koolau Summit Trail junction. (Pe'ahi-nai'a means "beckon to the fish.") HTMC was represented by Kay Lynch and me, and the other two volunteers were avid, botanically inclined hikers. I won't cover the trip in all its botanical glory, but I'll share some information that may be of more general interest.

If you've spent time on the northern Koolau crest, then you know that it was chilly, muddy, rainy, misty, windy (very windy!) and so forth. No need to belabor the obvious. If anything, we were lucky that it rarely rained during the days. We were ferried to the crest by helicopter in groups of three and our gear (lots of it, packed in nets) was carried in separate slingloads. (The pilot cannot carry people and slingloads; it's one or the other, with a 1,000 lb. limit.) We were also lucky that the pilot managed to get us out late in the afternoon of the third day even though we were socked in by a pretty solid mist. The gear stayed up there for later removal, though, because the pilot doesn't like to carry slingloads in bad weather. It was my first time in a helicopter. The rides were great and I was totally impressed by the skill of the pilot, flying in conditions that I wouldn't want to ride a bicycle in. He made that machine dart and hover like a dragonfly, with complete confidence and steadiness. Amazing!

Two DLNR staffers were dropped at the site of the dilapidated Kahuku cabin, which they prepared for removal. Take note--that landmark is presumably no longer there!

Two others, an Army environmental team snail specialist and a volunteer (who is a prominent commercial native plant horticulturist), were dropped in an unknown location to look for rare snails and plants. The pilot was to drop them in a specified area, but had trouble finding a landing site there. Also, he was running out of gas. Finally, he found a spot to touch down and our intrepid explorers got out. They were unsure where they were at first, but by the third day they had worked their way back up to the KST not far from the Kahuku cabin site for the chopper pickup.

Another specialist/volunteer team was dropped somewhere on the KST and worked back to the main Peahinaia site by nightfall.

The rest of us were dropped at the main site and got right to work, waiting until later to set up camp. The three-day work plan consisted of searching for rare snails and rare plants; eliminating rats, mice, and pigs; removing alien plants such as guava, ginger and palm grass; reading 'sign' to monitor ungulate (i.e., pig) presence; collecting propagules (seeds, cuttings, etc.) from rare plants for genetic storage and outplanting; monitoring the bog fence (the one we saw on the HTMC KST trip, just north of Castle junction; that's the only true, mature bog on Oahu!); installing vegetation monitoring plots; snorkeling in the stream (brrrr!) to check for native fish; and much more.

Also, two fence contractors came along to check the route of a 100-acre exclosure that will be built in the area to exclude pigs. The fence line will have to be cleared wide before construction. Part of the fence line will run near about one mile of the KST. Access to the trail will not be blocked, but the trail may be rerouted in spots or crossed by the fence. Also, it may turn out to be easier to walk along the fence line rather than to follow the current KST route in some areas. There is an environmental assessment (EA) of this project now out for review; HTMC should have gotten a copy for comment. One interesting point about the fence is that it will have a wide skirt at its base, lying on the ground, to keep pigs from digging their way under it. This skirt may provide a convenient path for hikers.

All of this activity is the result of recent environmental suits and new laws requiring the Army to protect natural resources on lands in its care. The Pe'ahinai'a area falls within the Army's Kawailoa Training Area, which is used only for helicopter overflights. Some protection projects are untertaken in cooperation with the Bishop Estate, which owns some of the land under Army control.

Any hikers coming across this fencing activity would, understandably, wonder what was going on, which is why I'm putting the word out. Perhaps we'd rather not have a fence in the middle of the wilderness, at least for aesthetic reasons. However, after this trip I have no trouble understanding the need. Pigs are killing the area, radically transforming the vegetation and the land itself. If the fence works as it should, the native plant species will have a much better chance of repelling the alien plants that are quick to invade newly disturbed areas. Hikers should be minimally inconvenienced.

The hard work done by these environmental professionals should be better known and appreciated. It is possible that there may be volunteer opportunities in connection with the fenceline clearing or other operations. If so, I'll pass the word along and encourage people to pitch in. It would be similar to the trail clearing in which many of you are already experienced. You would learn a lot about the area, have fun, and do good and beneficial work as well.

The fencers should get some credit, too. They will be living up there for maybe a two-week stretch, working non-stop until the job's done, in seriously adverse conditions. These particular fellows have already put in six miles of fencing in the Alakai Swamp on Kauai, so they know a little bit about this type of environment.

Beware of ribbons. There are many, many ribbons up there with many, many meanings. However, most of them do *not* mark the KST. They could lead an unwary hiker astray. I was flabbergasted by the amount of active management that takes place in the region, from Pu'u Kainapua'a to Schofield-Waikane, and all of those activities leave their traces. I don't think many ordinary hikers would be wandering around up there unprepared, but be careful. If you just follow any old ribbons, you might wind up in the middle of nowhere.

I'll spare you the botanical details, but be assured that the area is a jewel box of native plants, including many severely endangered species. These environmental specialists actually map each such plant that they find and include them in a database. They go back often and check them. They are doing what they can to save them (thus the exclosure). I found one specimen myself, a little Cyrtandra viridiflora hiding under some 'ohi'a lehua on a ridgetop 'way off the beaten path. They took a small leaf from this plant to send off to a scientist in Austria who is examining the genetic diversity of the species based on samples from around the island. Kay noted many interesting ferns. There is a lot more to that area than the mud and the stunning views!

I look forward to sharing more of what I learned with you over time. I have a better idea of what to show people the next time we hike through the area. I also think that HTMC members and these environmental professionals are natural allies who should get to know each other better. Now that I'm cleaned up, warm, and dry, I can hardly wait for another trip to this wonderful area.


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