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Hawaii Forest Institute (HFI) Awarded IUCN WCC Hawaii Climate Fund

In honor of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that met in Hawai‘i last year, the Hawaiian Airlines Foundation, the Hawaii Conservation Alliance Foundation, and Conservation International established the IUCN World Conservation Conference (WCC) Hawaii Climate Fund. The IUCN WCC Hawaii Climate Fund believes that as an island state, Hawai‘i is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Through a Request for Proposal process, the Fund awarded Hawai‘i-based non-profit organizations for community-based projects for climate change mitigation, adaptation, and education. Hawai‘i Forest Institute (HFI) was awarded a $15,000 grant for its Ho‘ola Ka Makana ‘a Ka‘ūpūlehu Dryland Forest initiative on Hawai‘i Island.

HPA Middle School students plant seedling at Kaʻūpūlehu. Photo credit: Keoki Apokolani Carter

Grant funds, with support from HFI, Kamehameha Schools and National Tropical Botanical Gardens, and Hawai‘i Tourism Authority allow the Ka‘ūpūlehu Cultural Ecology Team to continue mitigation initiatives in preparation for climate change and stewardship efforts to protect and enhance cultural resources found within the endangered Ka‘ūpūlehu Dryland Forest. The Ka‘ūpūlehu team is comprised of four integrated land-based learning and stewardship programs that have mutually beneficial partnering as a foundation of its work.

A significant partnership is with the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative (PICCC), as one of a few Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) sites that integrates indigenous science with institutional science to better prepare for climate change and share knowledge across disciplines. The four program directors along in concert with seven partner programs, were honored with the opportunity to give a formal international presentation at the IUCN WCC.

Through diverse outreach and restoration activities, Hawai‘i residents and visitors help mitigate the impacts of climate change. Adaptive management approaches are the cornerstone of this initiative and by using biocultural and mālama ‘āina “learn-while-doing” approaches, Ho‘ola Ka Makana ‘a Ka‘ūpūlehu Dryland Forest will engage stakeholders and provide learning opportunities throughout the ahupua‘a giving a mauka/makai, or a well-rounded regional approach to managing this rich and storied place.

Planned hands-on forest restoration activities include invasive plant removal, outplanting native seedlings, seed collection and monitoring wild regeneration of rare native plants.

“We are extremely thankful to IUCN WCC Hawaii Climate Fund for supporting our mission of protecting and perpetuating Hawai‘i’s endangered dryland forests,” said HFI Executive Director Heather Simmons. “Grant funds received help the mission of the Hawai‘i Forest Institute to promote the health and productivity of Hawai‘i’s forests through forest restoration, educational programs, information dissemination, and support for scientific research.”

Located in North Kona, Ka‘ūpūlehu Dryland Forest is a 76-acre dryland forest once home to thriving populations of Hawaiians. In Hawai‘i, 95% of dryland habitats have been destroyed and 25% of the endangered plants in the Hawaiian flora are from such drylands.

Today, Ka‘ūpūlehu Dryland Forest is a safe haven for place-based learning, strong in partnerships with the land, Hawaiian culture and community. Since 2000, over 8,000 native seedlings have been planted and cared for by more than 9,000 individuals within Ka‘ūpūlehu Dryland Forest through the dedication of volunteers, cooperators and staff.

By the end of 2017, Ho‘ola Ka Makana ‘a Ka‘ūpūlehu Dryland Forest initiative will have brought four additional acres of endangered dryland habitat under intensive management, engaged 800 volunteers for over 4,000 work hours, hosted over 1,000 people in classrooms and outreach events, and planted 600 native seedlings.

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