Maui News

$1 Million in New Grants & Matching Funds for Lānaʻi Watershed Conservation Program

July 29, 2021, 4:30 PM HST
* Updated July 29, 12:19 PM
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Keōmoku coast in Lāna‘i. Photo Courtesy: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation


The Kuahiwi a Kai: Lānaʻi Watershed Conservation Program has received four new grants worth $471,000 and matching contributions of $547,000, for a total conservation impact of more than $1 million.

Kuahiwi a Kai was established in 2019 to strategically preserve and enhance Lāna‘i’s unique natural and cultural resources from mauka to makai (from the top of the mountain down to the ocean), while encouraging community engagement and shared stewardship.

Additional information about Kuahiwi a Kai can be found at the newly updated program page.  

Funding and support for these grants are provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Pūlama Lāna‘i (a land and resource management company), the State of Hawai‘i and private contributors.

The grants and contributions will fund four projects: 

  • Install the first segment of ungulate-control fencing to manage invasive deer and sheep populations
  • Develop and implement a community-based program centered on hunting as stewardship
  • Deploy advanced remote-sensing technology to obtain high-resolution imaging of focal coral reef systems 
  • Develop video documentaries to capture and share stories of Lāna‘i’s people, their historical interactions with the land and lessons learned to communicate the current conservation needs on the island
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“We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation on this landmark restoration project that will help build a sustainable future for our island and people,” said Kurt Matsumoto, president of Pūlama Lāna‘i. “The grantees in this round of funding strike a good balance between technology-based research, on-the-ground implementation to address years of overgrazing, and most importantly, community engagement that will encourage a greater sense of stewardship for Lāna‘i’s lands.”

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Over the past 150 years, overgrazing and mismanagement of introduced ungulates (hoofed mammals) has led to unnatural erosion patterns on the island of Lānaʻi. Excessive erosion continues to destroy terrestrial habitats essential to native flora and fauna; bury historic cultural sites near the coast; and smother the island’s coral reefs and white sand beaches with sediment. Overgrazing has also led to an invasion of non-native plants that further degrade native habitats and alter watershed hydrology.

“Partnerships that bridge the public and private sectors are one of the keys to achieving long-term conservation success,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “The Kuahiwi a Kai program provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of a landscape-level watershed approach to sustainable land management and community stewardship in Hawai‘i. Effective, large-scale conservation efforts are vital to building a better and more resilient future for our nation, both for wildlife species and communities such as those on Lāna‘i.”

The programsʻ goals:

  • Reduce sediment runoff to nearshore reefs
  • Restore native vegetation to improve watershed health
  • Protect and enhance endangered and endemic species populations
  • Improve habitat and predator management for Hawaiian petrel (‘ua‘u)
  • Improve landscape quality for local community and visitors through preservation of nearshore resources, beaches and cultural sites
  • Increase community conservation ethic and involvement in landscape protection efforts
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“This partnership with NFWF is unique to the entire state of Hawai‘i as it provides a landscape approach across one land manager,” said Michelle D. Bogardus, assistant field supervisor for the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Working together, the landowner, communities, government agencies and conservation nonprofits can implement durable conservation projects that generate measurable benefits across entire watersheds.” 

Since the program’s inception, the foundation has awarded nearly $1.5 million in grants to 12 projects that support the goals and objectives of the program’s landscape-level approach to conservation. These projects span 20,000 contiguous acres of unique habitat essential for native species that are federally listed as threatened or endangered. The grants will generate more than $1.2 million in grantee matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $2.7 million.

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