Restoration work on Kahoolawe continues at a slow but steady pace. One of the big tasks is to replant foliage on the island.
The day begins early with 20 volunteers from Pacific Century Fellows riding out to gather supplies.
They fill burlap bags with gravel and mulch, find half a ton of large rocks to make dams, and pick native pili grass seeds.
Then, they take it all to a barren spot of land to do erosion control.
“This has been a rigorous, very physical day that I don’t know all of us were prepared for,” said volunteer Leslie Uptain, “but once you’re here, you get in the spirit and are excited to give back to this island.”
Kahoolawe has many deep gullies formed by erosion, so volunteers build rock dams to catch the silt and prevent erosion. Upslope of the dam, they plant seeds to help re-green the island.
Volunteer Ryan Kawamoto says he embraces this chance to be on Kahoolawe because “before this trip, I didn’t know anything about Kahoolawe. Now I’m learning all about the island and its history, and it’s a good opportunity to give back.”
Another hurdle for the group: Volunteers cannot dig to plant the foliage, because the area is only surface-cleared of bombs.
Instead, “we’re trying to build up soil and then we can add organic material,” explained Mike Nahoopii, executive director, Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission. “It could take a generation, but we’re thinking long-term.”
By 2026, the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission hopes to re-vegetate most of the island.
The year also holds great significance for KIRC as it marks the 50th year since Hawaiian groups first occupied Kahoolawe.