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Saturday, February 10, 2024

Kaʻū News Briefs Feb. 10, 2024

Hawai‘i Tourism Authority's graduates of stewardship training for Punalu‘u, which was contracted to Ka ‘Ohana O Honu‘apo. The four-month training was called Ka‘ū Hoa Pili ʻĀina Stewardship Program. Ceremonies were Saturday at Herkes Kaʻū District Gym Multi-Purpose Room. 
Photo by Julia Neal

HAWAI‘I TOURISM AUTHORITY'S PUNALU‘U PROGRAM to train stewards to educate visitors and the public about caring for Punalu‘u came to a close on Saturday with graduation ceremonies for ten students. HTA funded the nonprofit Ka ‘Ohana O Honu‘apo. Students received stipends and guest presenters received an honorarium for the program titled Ka‘ū Hoa Pili ʻĀina Stewardship Training Program.
    Trainers and presenters included Ka ‘Ohana O Honu‘apo board members Nohea Ka‘awa, Daniel Dierking, Ken Sugai, Jodie Rosam, Megan Lamson and Honu‘apo's Loko I‘a coordinator John Replogle. Other guest trainers included Laila Kaupu, Makani Gregg, Seafina Gaete, Kau‘i Felder, Kalā Mossman, Pam Fujii and Wally Ito. Replogle ran the program as Mālama ‘Āina Coordinator. The Assistant Coordinator was Alexis Kerver.
   During the graduation ceremonies, Hō‘ike Honoring Haumāna of Ka‘ū Hoa Pili ʻĀina Training Program, students said they learned about the natural resources and ongoing stewardship along the entire Kaʻū Coast and mauka into the native forest during the four-month program. They also visited places outside Kaʻū including the native plant nursery inside Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and Miloli‘i.
    Visits to Punalu‘u included a tour with Guy Enriques, who shared his life growing up there where his grandmother was a native Hawaiian speaker and his family members remain part of the fishing community.
    HTA also chose Kealakekua Bay for a similar program and said that both Punalu‘u and Kealakekua have become especially popular with visitors, resulting in overcrowding, congestion, natural and cultural resource degradation, and safety hazards.

Students made the stamps and printed the cloth to make kīhei, which they wore at
graduation from the stewardship program, funded by Hawai‘i Tourism Authority.
Photo by Julia Neal

    When announcing the programs, Rachel Kaiama, Island of Hawai‘i Visitors Bureau destination manager, said “With the support of HTA and its emphasis on destination management, we are seeing more ways in which regenerative tourism on Hawai‘i Island is working through ‘āina- and placed-based community models. These programs will further assist in our collaborative efforts to care for the natural and cultural resources of sacred places with resident-community stewards taking the lead for Punalu‘u and Kealakekua."
     HTA's invitation to the graduation ceremony said the program for Punalu‘u focused on "pono practices at Punalu'u and other Kaʻū sites to share and engage with visitors." It invited the attendees to "Discuss the Ka'ū Hoa Pili ʻĀina effort with training program director Jodie Rosam of Ka ‘Ohana O Honu‘apo" and with Kaiama from the Visitors Bureau.
    Nine of the students made presentations, each showing a native or canoe plant that had meaning to them and explaining the impact of the program on their lives.

    Alden Wells, a Volcano resident who lived in his family home at Honu‘apo for three years, presented the mountain naupaka plant and noted the other naupaka that grows by the ocean. He said they are symbolic of the 18 years of his life, living mauka and makai. He noted that Kaʻū is "one tight-knit community" and that living here has had a big impact on him.
    He also talked about Hawai‘i being the extinction capital of the world, but also having hope, pointing out that through the program he was able to steward an area where all of the plants around him were native Hawaiian.
     Christine Alley said she grew up here and through the program was able to visit places she didn't know existed, increasing her experience of everything Kaʻū has to offer. She said there is a need for more stewardship programs to help raise appreciation for the place. She noted that many people are not necessarily "proud of being from here," and thanked the mentors "who have impacted on me."

Ka 'Ohana O Honu'apo logo 
    Neil Nevis, from Kahuku, presented a ti plant, which he described as a canoe plant brought by early Polynesians. He talked about restoring rock walls at Honu‘apo and going to places he had never been, like Kaiholena in the mountains, as part of the classes and volunteer days.
   Crystal Leonards of Kahuku brought a wiliwili tree. She said it reminded her of what it means to be strong and resilient. She described learning about endangered plants and the surprise of learning how unique the ecosystems are on this island. Leonards pointed out the impacts of feral ungulates on the forests, emphasizing that pigs can spread Rapid ‘Ōhia Death. She highlighted the stark differences in forest health between fenced and unfenced areas.
   Coby Lund presented a popolo plant used in Hawaiian medicine and for dyes. He expressed appreciation for the diverse experience of the training program, saying he initially "thought we would be kicking out tourists from bothering the turtles" at Punalu‘u. He said the program gave him a deep connection to Ka‘ū and changed the way he goes about his life.
    Chelseae Kobzi, who was raised in Pāhala, and is accomplished in hula, presented the Kalo plant, also called taro. She said the shoots remind her of ‘ohana; the roots remind her of the ground "where you come from;" and the heart-shaped leaves remind her of love.

    She also noted taking a class on limu, seaweed, which was part of the program and said she now has her own dried, pressed limu collection. She said she appreciated time spent with the community in Miloli‘i and said, "Hopefully, we can eventually have some strong hui out here, like them." She said, "You don't have to be Hawaiian to be aloha. It's your action."
    She talked about Punalu‘u where she saw nēnē and butterflies flying by, and whales waving. She emphasized stewardship of South Point, which is also overrun with traffic and expressed "grief for the ‘āina."
    Ali Birnbaum, originally from Connecticut, presented the naupaka plant from the seashore. She expressed gratitude for learning to take "care of the land." She said she wants to encourage more volunteering along the Kaʻū Coast and gave Miloli‘i as a good example of a community working together. She noted that she helped gather pili grass for a hale there. She said "the heart of the program is going out and helping."
    Jimmy Cocallas, who lives mauka of Kalae, on the border of Waiomao and Kiolaka‘a, presented a kō plant, sugar cane. He said he has his own juicer and goes to market with it. He noted the desecration of South Point and said there is a need for resource management.
Christine Inserra of Kiolakaʻa brought an ʻōhiʻa, highlighting that ʻōhiʻa are the first colonizers of a new lava flow, and build entire forests from tiny seeds that take root into the cracks of new flows. She expressed heartfelt memories of the program and how it has impacted her. A former resident of Hōnaunau, she said Kaʻū has grabbed ahold of her, and that she has never felt more at home.
Another graduate of the program was Hezekiah Keaohuloa-Aldaya, of Pāhala, who reported being absent due to work obligations.
    In its announcement, HTA stated that "Under the direction of the non-profit Ka ʻOhana O Honu‘apo, this program is part of HTAʻs community-driven approach to destination management as guided by the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan and Hawai‘i Island Destination Management Action Plan. HTA has issued a new request for proposals for its 2024-2027 Development of Destination Management Action Plans. See www.hawaiitourismauthority.org/rfps/.

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KAʻŪ YOUTH ARE INVITED TO APPLY FOR RANGE CAMP IN WAIMEA.  The Hawai‘i Range Camp is in its inaugural year and will welcome the first cohort of haumāna during Spring Break March 18-22 for a week-long, high-school-aged, environmental education camp focused on rangeland working landscapes. The home base will be Hanaipoe Cabin at Parker Ranch in Waimea.         
    Camp will introduce haumāna to the ecosystem services and functions as well as the professional world of plant, animal, and landscape management unique to rangelands in Hawai‘i. This will be facilitated by presentations and immersive experiences with local experts in scientific disciplines related to rangelands, livestock, wildlife, watersheds, soils, and plants, as well as experienced professionals who are involved in managing resources of these kinds daily.
   The theme for this year's Hawai‘i Range Camp is He aliʻi ka ʻāina, he kauwā ke kanaka - "The land is chief, man is the servant." The goal of this program is to cultivate a relationship with and grow an understanding of and respect for these landscapes that humans occupy and that support communities and ways of life. 
    A statement from the organizers says, "The values of kuleana, pono, and mālama are the seeds that will be sown in these young people that we expect will bear fruit as they find their paths and determine their roles in our future. We hope to inspire them to not only love this place and care deeply for it but also to help them understand our history and the challenges that lie ahead and motivate them to use the gifts and opportunities they have to serve our aliʻi, our ʻāina, well."
    Camp sessions in this yearʻs program include: Natural History of Hawai‘i, Agricultural History of Hawai‘i. Parker Ranch History. Intro to Range and Natural Resource Management, Watershed function on working rangelands, Soils and geology, Climate, Soils and grasslands, Botany/Plant ID, Animal Science: Herbivore anatomy and nutrition, Grass-based livestock production and Forage Nutrition and Management, Estimating forage production and forage allocation, Range Ecology, Rangeland Health and Grazing Management. and Wildlife and Range.
    Nicole Glase will give a presentation and discussion on Contemporary Issues and Challenges Facing Rangelands.
   The entire program is field-based. Haumāna will learn practical skills including estimating available forage, plant identification, and soil texturing.                  Lessons also include digging and exploring a soil pit with application to describing soil horizons and understanding soil development processes and the way geology affects the soils here.
    Participants will learn about the unique anatomy of herbivores and how they interact with landscapes and make the food choices they do. They will also
discuss how grazing animals affect Hawai‘iʻs rangelands, how to recognize indicators of rangeland health and the challenge of balancing forage demand with the landʻs potential. 
     Ma ka hana ka ʻike is the main learning model. Evening sessions will feature talk story sessions with kūpuna and current leaders to discuss Hawai‘iʻs history and events and circumstances and changes that have shaped the ʻāina. The last day will culminate in a capstone project where haumāna will translate the ʻike they have gained from the week into the contemporary language of their peers, aka social media.
     Sponsors include Hawai‘i Range & Stewardship Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, The Healy Foundation, Paniolo Preservation Society, Na Maka Onaoa, Parker Ranch and University of Hawai‘i Cooperative Extension. 

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