UH Hilo honored for stewardship of Maunakea

Governor David Ige with CMS staff, left to right, Jessica Kirkpatrick, Greg Chun and Nahua Guilloz

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce honored the University of Hawaii at the Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship (CMS) with its 2022 Pūalu Award for Community Education on Friday, June 24. The award recognizes organizations that promote and support education and enrichment programs that develop personal skills and lifelong learning. CMS has been praised for his innovative efforts in native plant restoration and invasive species management.

“We are moved by this recognition which helps to highlight our dedication CMS staff members who dedicate their hearts to the stewardship of these precious lands,” said Nahua Guillozstewardship director at CMS. “Enriching the ecosystem on mauna helps connect other aspects of the project, which opens the door to education and connection with everyone who comes to Maunakea.”

outside the Maunakea Visitor Dock
Native plant restoration area around the dock on Maunakea.

This is the third Pūalu Prize uh Hilo received for his management of Maunakea. In 2016, uh was recognized for environmental awareness on mauna and in 2017, for culture and heritage. Also in 2017, the Hawaii Historical foundation presented uh with a Preservation Commendation Award, the foundation’s highest recognition for the preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and interpretation of the state’s architectural, archaeological, and cultural heritage.

“Recipients demonstrate leadership while working together for the betterment of West Hawaiisaid Wendy Laros, executive director of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce.

Launched in 2019, the CMS The Native Plant Restoration Project located around the Visitor Information Station at an elevation of 9,000 feet on Maunakea, focuses on improving the area’s ecosystem with native plants that are both rare and commons, providing habitat refuge for native birds and, as climate change accelerates, helping to slow the erosion and decline of valuable plants and animals.

plants in small planters
Babe ʻāweoweo greenhouse raised on Maunakea.

As of November 2021, the number of native plants propagated included: 495 māmane; 120 ʻāweoweo; 1,295 ʻenaʻena; 17 pāwale and 782 native grasses. Hundreds of native māmane also germinated on their own. The endemic tree with yellow pea-shaped flowers once thrived in mauka to makai forests, it is currently restricted to subalpine environments on Maunakea and Maunaloa on Hawaii Island.

“We are also seeing plants that we have planted starting to produce flowers and seeds. And so we collect seeds from these plants that we planted in our restoration area, which is incredible for just two years of work,” said Jessica Kirkpatrick, CMSnatural resources specialist. “It is an honor for our team to receive this recognition.”

As part of the restoration efforts, CMS built a greenhouse just above the restoration area with the help of community volunteers and donations of supplies provided by a local construction source HPM Construction supply. The structure housing propagated native plants is the tallest greenhouse in the state and is a vital part of the restoration effort. The overarching goal is to welcome groups from local schools and the community to help collect, prepare, plant and eventually replant in the environment.

Invasive species management

Eradicating invasive species and weeds helps reduce the habitat of invasive ants on Maunakea and prevents unwanted invasive species from being transported to high elevation areas. Since 2012, the Mālama Maunakea Campaign has connected community volunteers to help with resource management and stewardship of the Mauna Kea Science Preserve and mid-level support facilities at Halepōhaku. Since its inception, over 8,600 pounds of invasive weeds have been removed from CMS‘ restoration area.

people who plant
Community volunteers help pull weeds and plant Maunakea’s native flora.

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