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Wilderness volunteer crew help with reforestation at Hakalau NWR 

On behalf of the Wilderness Volunteers and our crew on the Hakalau Forest service project, thank you for a great week working in your refuge. We had a wonderfully successful trip!

Our work project was very rewarding and the views of the old growth Koa & Ohia forests and the variety of native Hawaiian birds we saw during our visit was spectacular. During the week, we out-planted 512 native understory plants (370 ohia, 25 kawau, 25 pilo, 30 kolea, 27 pukiawe, & 35 akala) under Koa canopy. We also cut and sprayed over 75 banana poka in the Maulua tract, removed approximately 215 invasive holly from the Hakalau tract, and attached and secured stainless steel ID tags to endangered Lobeliads in the endangered plant greenhouse.


Wilderness Volunteers by the Hakalau greenhouse ("Laulima" is a Hawaiian word that means many hands working together)
Photo by Wilderness Volunteers

Our volunteers were very grateful to be able to visit Hakalau and see the incredible work that Baron Horiuchi and the other Hakalau staff have accomplished. When I first came to Hakalau fifteen years ago it was dramatically different than it is today. We planted thousands of tiny koa trees into long lines of holes dug across grassy hills with Baron and worried that they wouldn't get enough water or that they would be quickly covered by grass. It is incredible to now see 20-30+ foot tall Koa on these hills, with baby Koa sprouting all around them. Fifteen years ago we thought that the tiny trees we were planting would someday grow into a forest and make habitat for native Hawaiian birds but we didn't think it would happen in our lifetimes. Fast forward 15 years to us planting understory in what is now a lush koa forest while watching a Pueo flying in and out of the Koa. Baron has put his heart and soul into Hakalau and the results are breathtaking.


Cathy Jelencovich planting Ohia
Photo by Tom Holling

Tom Holling planting Ohia
Photo by Susan Holling

During this project a couple of us went up above the volunteer cabin to the area we planted personal plants in 2002, 2003, 2004, & 2006. The area has gone from grassland with foot-high personal plants to a dense koa forest over 20 feet high full of native Hawaiian plants. While we were looking for our old rusty plant tags in this jungle we heard a tapping noise and looked up to see an Akiapola?au happily working away in the koa above us. While we were watching the Aki a couple of I?iwi flew past singing happily. How incredibly lucky we are to have been able to be a part of the reforestation of this special place.

Our project work has a ripple effect when our volunteers take their experiences and stories home to different parts of the country. You can see photos of Hakalau that our volunteers took this year (and from previous years projects) in our online photo gallery: http://www.wildernessvolunteers.org/gallery3/2017-Projects/Hakalau We are also working on a Blog post about Hakalau and will forward it on to you when it is published.

The positive experience we found in “Giving Something Back” at the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife refuge will be remembered fondly by our volunteers for years to come. We are looking forward to working with you again in 2018.

Last updated: July 5, 2017
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