Hui Laau Kamaaina LaiOpua Preserve Project Receives Cooke Foundation Grant

The Hawaii Forest Institute (HFI) was awarded a $12,000 grant from the Cooke Foundation for the Hui Laau Kamaaina LaiOpua Preserve project. This dryland habitat restoration project is providing forest stewardship opportunities at the endangered plant preserves within the Villages of LaiOpua in Kealakehe, North Kona.

LaiOpua reserve

Kealakehe Intermediate Na Kahumoku Youth Leadership Program students assist Site Manager Wilds Brawner at LaiOpua Preserve. Photo by Keoki A. Carter

HFI, Hawaii Forest Industry Association (HFIA), landowner Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), and community partners are working to protect and perpetuate this fragile endangered dryland ecosystem and share its historical, cultural, restoration, and scientific aspects with Hawaii residents and visitors. Volunteers are receiving a hands-on, land-based, learning experience to effect positive change in the areas of responsibility, stewardship, and interdependency of all living things.

In addition to creating a safe haven for the endangered plants Aupaka (Isodendrion pyrifolium) and Uhiuhi (Caesalpinia kavaiensis), endemic, indigenous, and Polynesian introduced species are being protecting under the leadership of Site Manger Wilds Pihanui Brawner.

Community Engagement Coordinator Keoki Apokolani Carter has been engaging community volunteers in preparing a site for the Hui Laau Kamaaina Outdoor Learning Center. Groups who have participated include Family Support Hawaii youth, Kealakehe Intermediate Na Kahumoku Youth Leadership Program students, Pono Pacific volunteers, and Brown University BELL program students.

The outdoor learning center will provide an opportunity for gathering, cultural practices, and ways to learn about this unique cultural ecology site. Site stewardship activities this year will include planting seedlings, pulling weeds, and collecting and distributing native seeds. The project also includes web pages documenting the stewardship activities at Hui Laau Kamaaina: Restoration and Education at LaiOpua Preserve and Kealakehe Restoration-Hui Laau Kamaaina, field learning guides, and a resource card featuring native plants of the Kealakehe region.

LaiOpua Reserve

Family Support Hawaii volunteer work day LaiOpua Preserve. Photo by Keoki A. Carter.

In addition to Keoki Carter and Wilds Brawner, Cultural Ecology Team members are Restoration Technician Kealakai L. Knoche and Outreach Consultant Yvonne Yarber Carter. Hawaii YouthConservation Corps (HYCC) intern Justin Ah Puck is assisting and learning from the Team.

DHHL’s LaiOpua Plant Mitigation and Preserve Restoration Plan (LPMPRP) outlines strategies to protect endangered plants and restore dryland habitat on approximately 70 acres within the 570-acre Villages of LaiOpua. The Cultural Ecology Team is forming relationships with local community members so they can adopt the project as their own over the next three years.

In addition to DHHL and the Cooke Foundation, other project funders are Arthur Lawrence Mullaly Fund and Kukio Community Fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation and U.S. Department of Education’s “Education through Cultural & Historical Organizations.”

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