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Niihau Interns Work Hard to Restore the Stream and Quarry

Niihau Interns Work Hard to Restore the Stream and Quarry

December 25, 2017

Makauwahi Cave Reserve began a program back in 2009, with federal “stimulus” funds, to provide job-training opportunities in conservation, landscaping, and horticulture to unemployed Native Hawaiians. We wanted particularly to focus on helping the Niihau families who have migrated to Kauai from our neighbor island in recent years seeking employment.

Niihau Interns

The Niihau Interns
(left to right)
standing: Henry Nakaahiki Jr., Keaka Kanahele
kneeling: Bernard Koyeg, Joe Kanahele (supervisor), Julie Kanahele

Those federal funds dried up soon after, but thanks to grants from the Wildlife Society, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Hawaii Community Foundation, Hawaii Tourism Authority, and others, we are proud that the Makauwahi Conservation Jobs Program lives on! At last count, 46 interns have participated in this program.

Currently our crew is focusing on two big projects that have been years in coming: restoration of Waiopili Stream that bisects the Reserve, and reclamation of the abandoned quarry lands next door to the cave that contribute to erosional runoff to the stream. We have been removing large invasive banyan and Java plum trees along the lower stream, to allow more sunlight and air circulation to help control high bacterial counts. This was one of the primary recommendations of scientists advising the project, from University of Hawaii and various federal and state agencies.

In the abandoned limestone quarry at Maha`ulepu, our crew has worked to stop erosion, plant native trees and groundcovers, and control invasive weeds. The interns also help us with our complex monitoring program, in which data on weather, soils, vegetation, and endangered species is collected daily. A short slide program on this project was recently presented by Lida Pigott Burney at a botanical conference in Honolulu.

After our program, interns have gone on to find jobs in a wide range of local industries, including tourism, agriculture, and conservation. Donations to MCR go directly and primarily to continuing this worthy program for our Ni`ihau `Ohana.


John Balderston on December 27, 2017

Mahalo for the update on Richards passing, I was privileged to have met him last year. He was truly a special man and loved this very special place! He will be missed.