What We Do

Providing Undisturbed Habitat

In accordance with the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one of our most important management functions is protecting wildlife by providing undisturbed habitat. We accomplish this goal by:

  • Promoting the conservation of endangered species, especially endangered koloa maoli (Hawaiian duck, Anas wyvilliana), ae‘o (Hawaiian stilt, Himantopus mexicanus), and ‘alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian coot, Fulica alai) through healthy functioning of wetland floodplains.
  • Optimizing water levels for maximum habitat size and value for endangered, resident, and migrating waterbirds while reducing the growth and reproduction of invasive species invasive species
    An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

    Learn more about invasive species
  • Constructing impoundments, building islands, controlling water levels, disking, tilling, spraying herbicide, and farming taro. 
  • Expanding understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of the wetland and coastal ecosystems through wildlife-oriented educational opportunities.
  • Developing cross-programmatic and community partnerships to enhance wetland and watershed habitats.

Management and Conservation

Hanalei Valley Viewpoint Project - Final Environmental Assessment

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has published the Hanalei Valley Viewpoint at Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge Final Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact. The viewpoint project will provide the community with increased opportunities for interpretation and access to the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge.

The County of Kauai is a partner on the project, as well as the Hawai'i Department of Transportation which is providing support and proposing improvements to the Kūhi'ō Highway as part of the project.

“We are excited to be working with the community and our partners to implement the Hanalei Valley Viewpoint project, said Kauai National Wildlife Refuge Complex Project Leader Heather Abbey Tonneson. “We hope the site will provide a place for both locals and visitors to enjoy the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, native wildlife, and important information about the Hanalei Valley and North Shore.”

The proposed Hanalei Valley Viewpoint at Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge is on an approximately 5.4-acre parcel. The site will include two viewpoints with views of the greater Hanalei Valley and Bay, Hanalei NWR, and the mountains of the Halele‘a Forest Reserve. It would also include parking for approximately 25 cars, short-term parking for a maximum of three tour buses, perimeter fencing, security gate, signs, interpretive displays, simple restroom facilities, seating, and landscaping with native and non-invasive plants. The viewpoint will be open during daylight hours only. The Draft EA was available for public review and comment for 30 days during May and June.

Taro Farming Fact Sheet

Kalo farming is an important part of the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), with approximately 160 acres of the 917-acre Refuge currently under special use permit for kalo farming.

Our Projects and Research

Taro (kalo) Farming

Taro farming is permitted on Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge because the current land use practice provides habitat for threatened and endangered Hawaiian waterbirds such as the koloa maoli (Hawaiian duck), the ‘alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian coot), the ‘alae‘ula (Hawaiian moorhen), the ae‘o (Hawaiian stilt), and the nēnē (Hawaiian goose). Forty-five other species of birds (18 of which are introduced species) also utilize Refuge habitat at some point throughout the year. Occasionally wildlife management and bird usage conflicts with optimal taro water management and production (e.g. maintaining wet fallow fields, waterbirds feeding on taro, etc.) therefore permit fees are set at a reduced rate to compensate farmers for losses incurred as a result of the requirement to favor endangered waterbirds in bird-taro conflicts. In addition, some farming practices may be modified or restricted to enhance waterbird production. Hanalei NWR is closed to the public to protect endangered waterbirds and minimize disturbances to their life cycles.

Avian Botulism Detector Dogs

Meet Solo, a Conservation Dog of Hawaii, and her trainer, Kyoko. This yellow lab is being trained to sniff out duck carcasses infected by Avian botulism type C at Hanalei NWR. The goal is to find carcasses quickly to prevent a botulism outbreak. Currently, the Refuge relies on human volunteers to help us find sick or deceased birds. We are striving towards using both humans and dogs in the future to help find as many carcasses as possible.

Training with Conservation Dogs of Hawaii continued in February 2021. It’s believed that with further training these dogs could one day help infected, live birds. Which, if caught in time, biologists can administer an antitoxin to save its life.

Avian botulism type C is a naturally occurring soil bacterium, Clostridium botulinum, which produces a powerful neurotoxin. It occurs year-round in Hawaii due to the warm, wet, and stagnant conditions that allow it to persist. Since 2011, more than 1,300 waterbirds have been killed or sickened by the disease at Hanalei NWR, with over 90% of the mortalities occurring among five federally endangered species. The koloa maoli (Hawaiian duck, Anas wyvilliana) is most susceptible to botulism, because it’s a dabbler.

A big mahalo to our partners, Conservation Dogs Hawaii!

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