Restoration Ecology in Hawaii

Ecological Restoration and Conservation Require Leadership
by -- March 28th, 2013

We spent most of Wednesday with the environmental advocate and marvelous storyteller, Maka’ala Ka’aumoana, the executive director of the Hanalei Watershed Hui. This woman is a force of nature. We were all impressed by her knowledge and dedication to preserving the cultural and environmental heritage of Hawai’i as a whole, and the Hanalei Bay area in particular.

Maka’ala, or Auntie as those under 30 years of age call her, was born in Kaneohe, Hawaii and raised in the South Pacific where her father was a CIA agent. She attended Stanford University in the 1960s where she received a Master’s degree in Nursing and an on-the-ground education in activism. She raised her family in California and worked as an educator until Hawaii called her home in the late 1980s.

Maka’ala told us her plan was to steer clear of political activism in Hawaii for five years. She lasted less than two. After settling in Hanalei, Kaua’i she put her knowledge and grassroots organizing skills to use.

The Hanalei River is one of 14 American Heritage Rivers. The Hui is a non-profit created to implement the river protection program. Working with federal, state, and local agencies, the Hui has directed research on the conditions of the Hanalei watershed and developed a plan to address pollution concerns. Maka’ala put us to work doing collecting human use data and surveys on the 2-mile stretch of beach in the beautiful Hanalei Bay.

After a little work we shared a lunch of poi and other local cuisine at Black Pot Beach Park, while we discussed local issues, including the Hanalei Plantation Resort. Having already met with Ohana Real Estate Investors, the group seeking to construct residences on the ridge adjacent to the Hanalei River, it was enlightening to hear Maka’Ala’s point of view opposed to the proposed development. I think it is safe to say that none of us will forget our time with Maka’ala, an inspirational leader.

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