Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

Q&A Chipper Wichman

September 18th, 2015


Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Charles "Chipper" Wichman, president and Chief Executive Officer of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, believed that the IUCN World Conservation Congress could be hosted by the U.S. and more specifically, in Honolulu. Wichman played a leadership role in bringing the Congress here, an effort that started as early as 2009. Wichman currently serves as vice chair of the WCC Hawaii Host Committee's executive committee and vice chair of its program committee.

The Green Leaf had a conversation with Wichman about the upcoming Congress, which marks a milestone because it's the first time it will be held in the U.S. The summit is expected to bring 8,000 to 10,000 leaders (from government, businesses, academia, NGOs and unique indigenous communities) representing 160 nations around the globe to the Hawai‘i Convention Center from Sept. 1 to 10, with possible attendance by President Barack Obama, Prince William and the Prince of Monaco.

Held only once every four years, the Congress, which helps shape the direction of global sustainable development, also presents plenty of opportunities for Hawaii residents to get involved.

The Congress is expected to address topics rangig from climate change (on the heels of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, November to December) to watershed management, conservation of marine resources, renewable energy and endangered species. The theme is "Planet at the Crossroads."

The United States has 84 IUCN Member Organizations, eight of which are in Hawaii (including the NTBG). The U.S. Department of State will need to process quite a lot of visas, and the state of Hawaii's host committee needs to raise $13 million to support the event. Visit for updates.

Green Leaf: Where did the inspiration for bringing the Congress to Hawaii come from?

Wichman: We started talking about it right after the World Congress in Barcelona in 2008. It was actually a couple of colleagues of mine — Chris Dunn, director of Lyon Arboretum at the time, Penny Levin, who is involved in protecting indigenous crops...We thought, the world could learn a lot from visiting Hawaii. It would really put the fantastic work that's going on here on the world stage. Hawaii is a microcosm of all the issues the planet is facing in a very condensed and focused way because we live on islands. And the islands are engines of evolution...We're recognized as one of the world's unique regions. We're also recognized as an endangered species capital of the world...

GL: So this Congress is often described as the Olympics of conservation. Why?

W: The World Congress is an unbelievable event. To call it the Olympics of the conservation world is true. It's the only event that brings together delegates and participants at the cutting edge of conservation — thought leaders from 160 countries around the world...APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which took place in Honolulu in 2011) is made up of 20 leading economies. This is 160 countries, not 20. So it's much bigger and much more diverse...

GL: So you feel Honolulu has a lot to offer the world in possible conservation solutions?

W: We have a lot of challenges here, and those are challenges everyone else in the world is facing. What's compelling is it's brought together indigenous knowledge, practices and pride, and combined with cutting-edge, western science, to create conservation programs that are community-based, which are much more powerful and effective than programs that don't involve indigenous communities. We're really at the cutting edge of those bio-conservation programs that are engaging cultural knowledge and practices and wisdom...

GL: What does Honolulu have to gain from the conference?

W: On the reciprocal side, we will be infused with ideas from people who are at the cutting edge in their part of the world. It's amazing to participate in one of these events — the exchange of ideas, practice, knowledge and connections made. The value of these personal interactions can't be replaced by online webinars. There's nothing that can replace the face to face personal meetings and relationships that take place in a venue like the World Conservation Congress...

One of my dreams (I refer to it as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is that the president of the U.S. and governor of Hawaii will stand up at the stage of the World Congress in front of all these people from around the world, and say, we recognize the importance of the biodiversity that exists in Hawaii. We recognize the importance of Hawaii and our Hawaii culture, and we are committed to creating a biosecurity plan that will protect Hawaii, that's as strong as any other biosecurity plan in the world.

In hosting it, all these people come to Hawaii and have a wonderful Congress, but if we haven't left a legacy behind us, then I feel we've missed the boat. I've been spending a lot of time focused on engaging our community to think about how to use this as an opportunity to create a legacy...I would never have undertaken this opportunity if I did not believe hosting this would not lead to a transformation in Hawaii.

GL: What kind of transformation?

W: I think that the majority of people in Hawaii, although they know the term 'conservation' and may know Hawaii has unique flora, most people in Hawaii don't truly understand the issues that we face. And this is a way of raising the profile of these issues so that the public can really understand it. Ultimately, if the public doesn't understand it, then we will never elect political leaders that have the will to make the right choices, and to put in place the kinds of regulations and laws we need to affect our environment. I see it as transformational in raising public awareness, in terms of engaging the hearts and minds of our students in Hawaii. I would love to see every student in Hawaii, kindergarten to 12th grade, and maybe even at the university level, be aware of this and be touched by it in some way...We're hoping we'll be able to find a philanthropist to say, 'I'm willing to sponsor all the school kids in Hawaii because I think this is so potentially transformative and inspiring'...If you can plant that seed of conservation, that's our future. Our children are our future. So I see the Congress as being potentially transformational, inspiring the next generation of leaders of our state...


World Conservation Congress Hawaii

August 25th, 2015


Several thousand leaders and decision-makers from government, business, academia and indigenous communities are gathering for the IUCN World Conservation Congress at the Hawai‘i Convention Center from Sept. 1 to 10, 2016. The theme of this year's conference, to be held for the first time in Hawaii (and the U.S.), is "Planet at the crossroads."

The Congress is divided into two parts – the Forum, which is open to the wider public, and the Members' Assembly, a global environmental parliament where member organizations discuss and vote on a wide range of issues that guide the IUCN work program and partnership initiatives. A call for contributions went out in June for any interested groups that want to host an event during the conference's Forum.

The Forum is where IUCN Members and partners can discuss cutting edge ideas with people from all over the world. The Congress is seeking hosts for 560 available slots — 135 workshops, 200 Knowledge cafe sessions, 200 poster sessions and 25 training courses. You have until Oct. 15 to submit your proposal. The Congress is only considering hosts that partner with at least one or two IUCN constituents, rather than a single organization, and is looking for events that engage the audience, rather than simply offer a series of "old school" PowerPoint presentations.

There are several options:

>> A Workshop, or 120-minute session that is participant-oriented with a professional facilitator.

>>  A Knowledge Cafe, or hosted roundtable discussion involving up to 12 people.

>> A Poster, which will be displayed during the entire Congress.

>> A Conservation Campus training session, which should be interactive and can involve up to 50 people.

Proposals must meet a number of criteria and be relevant to the theme and draft IUCN Programme for 2017-2020. Here's an outline with most of the information you need. Keep in mind that you'll be competing with organizations from around the globe for one of the slots, so it's pretty competitive. You can apply online.

There's also a link to other entries already submitted, which include a poster on "Protecting and Managing the Magnificent Marianas Trench Marine National Monument" and a workshop on "How to sell a conservation project."

Hawaii, as host for this conference, says Randall Tanaka, executive director of the WCC National Host Committee, has so much to offer in terms of knowledge in the world of conservation, whether it be watershed management issues, species survival or the challenges of sustainable development.

"I think the opportunity for Hawaii is we can provide some very unique solutions to the problems," he said. "It is truly amazing, some of the work that's been done in this state. What we learn from this conference, and what we have to share can become an intellectual export."

Also, if you are interested in hosting an excursion to support the mission of the Hawai‘i Host and Program Committees, visit this Google Docs link.

Saving Haiku Stairs

August 12th, 2015

Haiku Stairs, also known as Stairway to Heaven, is expected to be dismantled by the Hawaii Board of Water Supply. A petition started by Friends of Haiku Stairs seeks to save it. Star-Advertiser file photo.

Haiku Stairs, also known as Stairway to Heaven, is expected to be dismantled by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. A petition started by Friends of Haiku Stairs seeks to save it. Star-Advertiser 2001 file photo.

It's a darn shame.

We have this unique treasure on Oahu, and saving it is going to be a gargantuan effort, yet the powers that be do not want to make the effort. The Haiku Stairs, better known as "Stairway to Heaven," appear to be headed for dismantlement by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply.

The Friends of Haiku Stairs recently started a petition asking the Board of Water Supply to save the unique and historic stairs from destruction. There have been other petitions seeking to save the stairs before, including this one petitioning Sen. Mazie Hirono five months ago. That one received 3,438 supporters. This one has the most signatures, so far, with 4,135 supporters as of Wednesday. It just needs another 865 to reach its goal of 5,000.

In May, the Board of Water Supply's directors agreed to spend $500,000 to study how the stairs can be removed following a landslide that damaged a portion of the stairs earlier this year. It expressed interest in transferring ownership of the stairs to another entity. But the National Park Service isn't interested in taking over the stairs. Nor is the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

"What we want to do is not to spend that half a million," said Vernon Ansdell, president of Friends of Haiku Stairs. "I think by doing that, they [the Board of Water Supply] are implying that their goal is to remove the stairs. We want to try and convince them, with this petition, there is an enormous amount of support out there to preserve the stairs."

Honolulu City Councilman Ikaika Anderson, who once supported reopening the stairs, believes all options have been exhausted. A working group with all the various stakeholders and agencies was formed last summer. So far, no other government entity has stepped forward, expressing interest in taking over ownership of the stairs.

"I commend this group of people for coming forward and I understand their desire to open the stairs," said Anderson. "I share that desire, provided we can turn the stairs over to a government entity as required by the Board of Water, provided that we can also offer an area with controlled access and managed hiking. Really, I think that time frame has come and gone."

Residents in the neighborhood have been patient with trespassing hikers, he added.

"We need to give relief to the residents," he said. "And we need to do that sooner rather than later."

The stairs, which have been closed for 28 years, feature more than 3,900 stairs stretching about two miles up the Koolaus, which are accessible from the Kaneohe neighborhood. The U.S. Navy built the stairs during World War II as part of a communications network. People have been hiking it illegally. In 2014, the Star-Advertiser reported 135 citations issued for trespassing on Haiku Stairs, along with 100 warnings and six arrests.

Haiku Stairs, better known as the Stairway to Heaven, is officially closed and off limits. Photo courtesy Friends of Haiku Stairs.

Haiku Stairs, better known as the Stairway to Heaven, is officially closed and off limits. Photo courtesy Friends of Haiku Stairs.

The petition, which the Friends plan to present at a board meeting Aug. 24, describes the stairs as "legendary to hikers and climbing enthusiasts from all over the world, offering panoramic views of Oahu and a valuable opportunity to study Hawaiian history, culture, as well as native plant and animal life."

With managed access, and everyone working together to address issues of concern, Ansdell said it is possible to keep the stairs open.

"Many years ago, when the U.S. Coast Guard were in control of the stairs," he said, "people would go up into the valley, park, sign waivers, climb the stairs, come down and drive off again. It worked incredibly well. It didn't go through the neighborhood and interfere with anyone in that neighborhood."

Up to two years ago, the Friends used to go up the stairs to remove invasive species. The group offered to fix the damage that resulted from the landslide, according to Ansdell. But the Board of Water Supply declined the offer.

"We think the damage is very superficial," he said. "We're 100 percent sure it's just damage to the railings. We don't think it would cost that much, and we would raise the funds to do it."

The stairs also provide an unparalleled cultural and historical experience, he said. There are native Hawaiian plants, including rare and endangered species at the summit confirmed by experts from Bishop Museum. He said the stairs, with railings, are also safe as long as people use common sense and do not stray off the steps.

"The views are spectacular," said Ansdell. "When you're on the stairs, the whole valley and ahupua‘a opens up...When you get to the summit, it's almost spiritual."

Clearly, the public is interested in keeping the stairs open. From people who have proposed marriage on the steps to a veteran who used the steps for rehab after recovering from an injury, the petition has struck a chord. It's been signed by people from throughout Hawaii as well as the U.S. and globe.

"I'm very pleased with the response," said Ansdell. "I think if nothing else, it shows that there is support. When you read it, you see the passion people have for the stairs."

Here's a sampling of comments from those who signed the petition:

"Because some cultural wonders must be preserved."

Chris Gray, Kailua, Hawaii

"If Zion can have Angel's Landing, and Yosemite can have Half Dome, Hawaii should have Haiku Stairs!!!"

Greg Parsons of Danvers, Mass.

"As someone who has a strong appreciation for nature and the outdoors, which is an idea that the Hawaiian islands exemplify, I see no good reason to destroy something that was restored to give appreciation to the nature and beauty that the islands have to offer. The risks are inherent, and people have have already said that they're willing to pay for access. But removing the stairs entirely is just an easy way out to a problem that can be solved by people coming together."

Ken McCann of Vail. Colo.

"It's part of our history in Hawaii. It's  better to have it open, regulated, with warnings than closed, unregulated, and o warnings about the danger that you are going into."

Gernell Yamada, Honolulu

With enough public will, maybe we could save these stairs for future generations to come. The petition urges the Board of Water Supply to work with stakeholders to create a managed access plan, solve illegal hiking problems and save the stairs.

If you are interested in once again hiking the stairs, sign the petition. To learn more about Friends of Haiku Stairs, visit their Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Friends of Haiku Stairs.

Photo courtesy Friends of Haiku Stairs.

Conservation Hilo

August 6th, 2015

Opening day ceremony at the Hawai‘i Conservation Conference in Hilo. Photos courtesy Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance.

Opening day ceremony at the Hawai‘i Conservation Conference in Hilo. Photos courtesy Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance.

Aloha Hilo!

The 23rd annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference kicked off on Monday, with a move to Hilo this year. More than 1,200 people attended from across the isles as well as the U.S. mainland. The conference theme this year was "Hanohano Hawai‘i Kuauli: Celebrating Collaboration and Wisdom Across Hawai‘i's Ecosystems." It concludes on Thursday.

I think the move to Hilo was a great idea this year. After all, Hilo is home to the Merrie Monarch Festival as well as some of the most beautiful, precious lands and habitats for native plants and birds.

Topics covered at the conference range from a general session on birds and bats to the albizia invasion across Hawaii's physical, political and economic landscapes. There was also a session called "Connecting Culture and Science," moderated by Sam Ohu Gon.

Panoramic of the audience listening to keynote speaker Pua Kanahele on opening day. Photos courtesy Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance.

Panoramic of the audience listening to keynote speaker Pua Kanahele on opening day. Photos courtesy Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance.


>> The conference opened with a Kipaepae Ka Mauli Kuauli, its official opening ceremony on Monday evening. Kipaepae is translated as "stepping-stones for entering a house." Aunty Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele was the opening keynote speaker.

>> Conference attendees participated in various huaka‘i, including an excursion to one of Hawaii's largest, remaining dry forest on the slopes of Mauna Kea.  The forest is home to the critically endangered palila bird. Conservationists are working to restore the forest through collaborative partnerships.

>> A special, day-long exhibition on Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument on Wednesday. Keynote speaker in the morning was Kamana Beamer.

>> As usual, the conference offered a Community Connections Day on Wednesday, which is open and free to the community. There were live performances by Paula Fuga and Kainani Kahaunaele, along with poster presentations, a special talk story with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Kaimana Barcarse. Chefs Mark "Gooch" Noguchi and Top Chef finalist Sheldon Simeon also offered a collaboration dinner, along with Aloha Monday's, Moon + Turtle and Sweet Cane Cafe.

>> An IUCN workshop was held Thursday morning. The IUCN World Conservation Congress, themed "Planet at the Crossroads" is scheduled for Oahu Sept. 1 to 10, 2016. Keynote speakers were Sen. Brian Schatz (via video) and Suzanne Case, chair of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The Hawaii Conservation Conference started Monday and concluded Thursday in Hilo. Photo courtesy Hawaii Conservation Alliance.

The Hawaii Conservation Conference started Monday and concluded Thursday in Hilo. Photo courtesy Hawaii Conservation Alliance.

Q&A Kahi Pacarro

June 18th, 2015

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro upon his return from a 21-day expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with NOAA to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro upon his return from a 21-day expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with NOAA to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Upon his June 8 return from a 21-day mission to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, also known as Papahanaumokuakea, aboard the NOAA ship Hi‘ialakai, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro says he's hoping to return again to clear even more of it from those remote isles.

NOAA partnered with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii for a pilot project to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics from the beaches of Kure Atoll, Lisianski Island, Pearl and Hermes Atoll and French Frigate Shoals during three weeks in May and June. As part of the project, the types and sources of debris will be identified, along with an estimate of accumulation rates.

In total, the team hauled back about 5,000 pounds of debris — large pieces of plastic, buoys, and nets. Most of it will be recycled and used for an installation art piece, according to Pacarro.

The Green Leaf sat down for a Q&A with Kahi.

Q: How did you end up going on this trip with NOAA?

A: The Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program goes out every year and leaves as a full boat, drops off field teams and supplies and comes back with a barebones crew. They saw an opportunity, and said, why don't we start bringing back some of the marine debris on the way back? They thought of my organization because they've seen us get the work done and pick up marine debris versus just talking about it. That's kind of how it started.

Q: Was it a challenge?

A: For us, it was figuring out where the marine debris was coming from, how to put it on a small boat, how to get it from reef to boat, how to make sure it's stored safely, how to get it off the boat and into a storage facility...The NOAA marine debris program focuses on entanglement hazards, so that's going to be nets floating on nearshore waters, nets on shores and beaches, and those attached to reefs...Then there's the terrestrial plastic polluting the beach. That's the stuff the Monk Seal Research Program team has to walk by on a daily basis to check on the monk seals...So we picked up those piles, and ended up bringing back about 5,000 pounds of marine debris.

Crew removed nets from Papahanaumokuakea. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Crew removed nets from Papahanaumokuakea and hauled them back to Oahu aboard the Hi‘ialakai. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Q: What will you do with 5,000 pounds of that marine debris?

A: We'll be incorporating them into the state's largest marine debris art installation at Thomas Square (in time for) the 2016 IUCN (Sept. 1-10) conference. When completed, it will be recycled through our partnerships with Method and Parley for the Oceans. Whatever they can't take, ropes and what not, if we don't have a source for somebody to recycle it, it will go to our trash energy program...

Q: Since this was your first time out there, what was your first impression? What was the most interesting observation you made out there?

A: The first place we landed was Tern Island at French Frigate Shoals...There were so many birds. It was like stepping into a National Geographic television show...They're everywhere, and you have to look where you step because there are eggs everywhere. It's a very fragile ecosystem. One false step and you've killed a baby bird.

Q: What about the amount of marine debris out there?

A: What I saw was the dirtiest beach I'd ever been to, and that was on Laysan. It must have been accumulation of plastics since the invention of plastics. It was the dominant feature of the landscape. It outnumbered birds. The birds just live amongst it, and so do the [Hawaiian monk] seals, and so do the turtles. They live with this marine debris and they become dull to it just like society becomes dull to it. What we have to do is raise awareness...

Hawaiian monk seal lying among marine debris litter at French Frigate Shoals. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Hawaiian monk seal lying among marine debris litter at French Frigate Shoals. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

When we did our first beach cleanup, there were only eight of us cleaning this south section of Lisianski island, this thing was three or four football fields, and there was marine debris everywhere. There was no way eight of us were going to make a dent in this zone. We said, 'You know what? Let's just try.' Within six hours, we had that area completely clean... We just put out heads down, drank a lot of water and pt on a lot of sunscreen. It was really hot, but it was so rewarding...We created this technique, using old ropes to string up the [commercial fishing] buoys like they were a 200-pound lei, and like football players pulled them up oto the high tide line where they couldn't be easily washed away. Knowing we could up that much area with so few people gives you hope...

Q: Was it an eye-opener for you, even though you already deal with marine debris at your beach cleanups?

A: Yeah, definitely. I didn't expect there to be that much trash. Some key things that stuck out in my mind were the amount of commercial fishing gear that was out there...I saw multiple smart FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) used in the commercial fishing industry...It's like a dome, it floats, has a solar panel, electronics within with sonar testers that can be calibrated to determine how many fish are also has GPS coordinates...We saw at least 100 FADs out there...We looked up these companies and their focus is on bluefin tuna. I eat so much tuna. I love spicy ahi donburi — now what am I supposed to do because I am contributing to this problem? It's a tough realization, yet I am contributing to this problem on a large-scale by firing up on spicy ahi donburi, unless it's coming from my local fisherman... It comes down to regulation, it also comes down to us as consumers...

Q: What type of marine debris did you find  most of out there?

A: I was expecting to find a lot of single-use plastic water bottles out there. The only bottles making it out there were bottles where the cap was left on. Every single bottle that we found out there had a cap on it...That means that billions of bottles that do make it into the ocean are sinking to the bottom and lining the ocean floor...The No. 1 trash items were from the hag fish and oyster industries...Hag fish traps and oyster spacers, then buoys...And we still found a lot of [plastic] straws, a lot of toothbrushes and a lot of razors, even deodorant.

This dead albatross, upon examination, has a belly full of plastics. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

This dead albatross, upon examination, has a belly full of plastics. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Q: How does this change your perspective on marine debris and your mission at Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii?

A: It strengthens our existing desire to clean more marine debris, increase recycling of marine debris using what's existing versus virgin products, along with being better consumers, and using the power of our wallets to effect change within our society. That transcends beyond marine debris and plastics. That goes into what you eat, what you eat it out of, energy, where you get your energy from...

Q: Will you return to Papahanaumokuakea next year?

A: I sure hope so...Potentially, next year what we'd like to do, is probably have one of us on the boat for the whole time. When it gets to Midway, have a crew of our own meet them there and come down as a team to exponentially increase the amount of marine debris we can pick up...


Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's next big event is its Magic Island & Ala Wai Boat Harbor Cleanup on Saturday, June 27. Check in time is 9:30 a.m., clean up time is 10 a.m. to noon. Free lunch will be available while supplies last.


Inspiring #808cleanups

May 11th, 2015

The original group of hikers behind 808 cleanups  beneath Koko Crater Arch.  Photo courtesy 808 Cleanups.

The original group of hikers behind 808 cleanups beneath Koko Crater Arch. 808 Cleanups founder Michael David Loftin, in red T-shirt, top. Photo courtesy 808 Cleanups.

While keeping tabs on breaking news stories, I've been wondering why there seem to have been so many hiking-related injuries and fatalities in recent months.

Some blame social media and the Internet for leading thrill-seekers and inexperienced hikers to unsanctioned trails that were formerly known to more experienced or knowledgeable hikers. Is it social media's fault? Is it today's quest to capture the coolest selfie, teetering on the edge of a mountain ridge? I don't know the answers. I know that plenty of experienced hikers from the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club have been going on some of these trails for years, without incident. Sometimes, I think it's just an unfortunate accident. No matter what, any hiking accident is tragic.

But social media can also be used in a positive way.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources has taken the strategy of using social media to warn people of the dangers of hiking Sacred Falls with this video. Interestingly, landowner Kamahameha Schools took a different tactic, sending out "cease and desist" requests, according to this Hawaii News Now report, asking more than a dozen bloggers to stop promoting hiking trails on their properties. The resulting consequences are sad – Mariner's Ridge, one of my favorite hikes on Oahu (and the one where I met my husband), is now fenced off.

Today's column features a non-profit called 808 Cleanups, which was founded by a group of avid hikers who want to use social media for good.

Founder Michael David Loftin and his friends first became concerned when they found nature tagging below Koko Crater Arch. They decided to do something about it — clean it up, educate and encourage others to steward these beautiful places on Oahu.

The mission of 808 Cleanups is "to empower communities in restoring their natural environments through decentralized beach, graffiti, hiking trail and marine debris cleanups." Volunteers from 808 Cleanups are "striving to keep these areas beautiful for future generations" through an Adopt a Site program, education and political advocacy.

So, with a decentralized philosophy, anyone can lead a beach cleanup — whether you're a party of one and two or a party of 20.

"808 Cleanups can occur many ways," said Loftin, a Peace Corps veteran and lifelong environmentalist. "I would say 80 percent are people doing their own cleanups wherever they are. Sharing the stories is really important even if its' a small cleanup."

Taking your dog for a walk on the beach? Make sure you pick up after your dog, of course, and pick up some marine debris on the shoreline while you're at it. Going for a hike with some friends? Pick up any litter that you see along the trails and carry it out with you. The philosophy is to leave it better than when you got there.

Post it to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with #808cleanups and inspire others to do the same.

Follow the Leave No Trace outdoors ethic.

If people are using social media to find formerly unknown hikes, Loftin figures it can also be used to encourage people to respect nature and be responsible hikers and stewards of nature. The goal, he says, is to "make it better than when you found it."

808 Cleanup volunteers recently helped clean layers of trash from Tantalus Lookout (getting the community and Hawaii Discovery Tours involved), bonfire debris from Kaiwi Shoreline and continue to steward Liliuokalani Botanical Park, a city park that has also been neglected. Volunteers who clean a site at least twice a month and post to social media can get a free cleanup kit from 808 Cleanups' sponsor, Home Depot. Loftin usually meets volunteers on site to deliver the cleanup kits.

Find 808 Cleanup's calendar here. 808 cleanups is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Related Videos:
Intro to 808 Cleanups

Pride Rock cleanup (Lanikai pillbox hike)

Sea Lions Zeno and Shackle

February 20th, 2015

SAUSALITO, CALIF. — It took less than a minute.

Schoolchildren, teachers and other members of the public had lined up in a V-shape along the shores of Rodeo Beach in Marin, Calif., to witness the release of two rescued sea lions by staff at The Marine Mammal Center.

Once released from their kennels, California sea lions Zeno and Shackle, did not linger or hesitate. They shuffled quickly along the sand, making a beeline for the ocean. As they entered the water together, a smattering of applause came from the audience.

Then we watched in delight, as their two heads bobbed in the waves. It was a beautiful sight.

Zeno and Shackle head out to their ocean home after being rescued and released by The Marine Mammal Center at Rodea Beach in Marin, Calif.

Zeno and Shackle head out to their ocean home after being rescued and released by The Marine Mammal Center at Rodeo Beach in Marin, Calif. The two seals were rescued from the Santa Cruz and Monterey area.

Beautiful, because these wild mammals are returning to their natural habitat, where they should be. Beautiful, because they were being given a second chance — humans may have created the problems that hindered them, but humans can also be part of the solution.

What the audience may not have known is how much work it took to get the wild sea lions into the kennel, weighed on a scale, then carefully loaded onto a pickup truck and carted across the sand for the release. Staff and volunteers at the center all played a vital role.

The release was also a small, uplifting celebration in the midst of a sea lion crisis. For the third year in a row, sea lion pups are stranding along the California coastline in record numbers. While the center usually houses about 10 sea lion pups, it was taking care of nearly 100.  TIME Magazine on Feb. 18 explored whether the strandings could be caused by rising ocean temperatures impacting the diet of sea lions (squid, anchovies, mackerel).

"We call sea lions sentinels of the sea," said MMC communications curator Sarah van Scagen. "What's going on with them can tell us a lot about the oceans as a whole."

Zeno, a female California sea lion, was rescued from Santa Cruz in January. She was behaving abnormally for a sea lion, and rescuers who  picked her up confirmed she was suffering from domoic acid toxicity. Domoic acid, produced by algae, accumulates in shellfish, sardines and anchovies, which in turn, are consumed  by sea lions. The biotoxin affects the brain, causing lethargy and disorientation. It can also affect people, so the center gives the health department a heads up when it discovers a case like Zeno's.

For Shackle, a male California sea lion picked up from Monterey, the problem was simpler – he had been entangled with a fishing net around his neck that left a scar. But luckily, once the net was removed, he quickly regained weight and was ready to be released.

Releasing two sea lions together is ideal, according to van Schagen, because they can keep one another company. Sea lions are, by nature, social animals.

That seemed apparent — the pair seemed as if they were immediately bonded as they headed into the waves.

TMMC, founded in 1975, is the non-profit that recently celebrated the grand opening of Ke Kai Ola (The Healing Sea), the first monk seal hospital at NELHA in Kona, in September. With more than $3.2 million raised in funds, TMMC was able to build four pens with pools – two for juvenile and adult seals and two for pups, along with a fish kitchen, medical lab and seawater filtration infrastructure for the pools.

Ke Kai Ola's first patients were four young, malnourished monk seals — Kulia, Ikaika, Hala‘i and Maka‘ala — from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. They were admitted in July, and released (nice and fat again) on Aug. 31. The center's current patients are Meleana and Pua, also from the NWHI, who were admitted as malnourished pups in September. Hopefully, they'll be released soon, too.

Sea lions Zeno and Shackle, are released and ready to head back to their ocean home.

Sea lions Zeno and Shackle, are released and ready to head back to their ocean home.

Treasures of Oahu

July 16th, 2014

Mokolii Cove Pano

This beautiful panorama of Mokoli‘i Cove (Chinaman's Hat) is on display at Canon Gallery as part of nature photographer Nathan Yuen's exhibit "Treasures of Oahu" until end of July. Photo by Nathan Yuen.

Nature photographer Nathan Yuen hikes for hours to get to the most remote parts of Oahu, all in the quest to capture some of the rarest species in the Hawaiian islands. We're talking about singing kahuli (an endangered Oahu tree snail), happy-face spiders and ‘ohi‘a lehua found nowhere else in the world but in Hawaii. And, more specifically, on Oahu.

Yuen's photo exhibit, "Natural Treasures of Oʻahu — From Mauka to Kahakai," is up at Canon Gallery until the end of July.

Yuen, also commissioner of the Natural Area Reserves System Hawaii, spends weekends hiking along the spine of the Koolau and Waianae mountains looking for native snails and flowers endemic to the island of Oahu. He's interested in beautiful vistas as well as the easily overlooked diminutive details one might find along a path. On a regular basis, he enjoys visiting Makapu‘u at sunrise to see the colorful transformation of the ocean and sky at dawn, or heading to Mokoli‘i (Chinaman's Hat) and its cove.

"Nothing gives me more pleasure than to see the raw beauty of Oahu's coastlines and the native plants and seabirds that live there," he said. "It is my goal to showcase the unique plants and animals that live at these special places to give you a reason to protect them for future generations."

Find spectacular vistas of Oahu, as well as closeups of some of the unique plants and animals found only on the island of Oahu, sometimes overlooked while on the trail. Yuen takes multiple, overlapping photos to compose a large, panoramic image, such as the one above. Canon Gallery is at the Canon USA office at Ward Plaza (210 Ward Ave. #200). Hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.


A tree for every dancer

May 28th, 2014

Merrie Monarch Festival director Auntie Luana Kawelu planting a koa tree at Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, Hamakua Coast, Big Island. Photo courtesy Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods.

Merrie Monarch Festival director Auntie Luana Kawelu planting a koa tree at Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, Hamakua Coast, Big Island. Photo courtesy Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods.

It's a beautiful concept. Plant a tree, honor someone.

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, a certified B Corp Best for the Environment, announced in early May a new milestone — the planting of its 250,000th native koa tree on the slopes of Mauna Kea on the Big Island. Its goal is to plant 1.3 million trees as part of a reforestation initiative.

What would be more appropriate than to plant a koa tree for every dancer participating in the Merrie Monarch Festival? Hula, after all, is about a connection to nature, with mele celebrating the beauty of every isle, valley, mountain, forest, inlet, rain, breeze, fern and flower. KFVE initiated this legacy last April in a tribute to the Merrie Monarch's 50th year, sponsoring the planting of 555 koa trees in honor of every dancer at the festival last year.

This April, 580 legacy trees were planted, one for every dancer that competed.

KFVE General Manager John Fink says the plan is to sponsor every hula dancer participating in the festival in future years.

Pulelehua on Lehua[1]NathanYuen

In just four years, more than 650 acres of former pastureland have been reclaimed as native forest.

Besides koa, HLH is now offering the planting of other indigenous species of trees and understory including the ‘ohi‘a (see the beautiful lehua blossom, left, by nature photographer Nathan Yuen,, mamane, naio, ko‘oko‘olau, kukaenene and both varieties of ‘iliahi (Hawaiian sandalwood).

"We are seeing the return of the koa forest and along with it, the endangered birds which historically occupied these lands — it's remarkable how fast it is happening," said CEO Jeff Dunster. What's more, this Legacy Forest is creating dozens of permanent green jobs, reducing the effects of global warming and most importantly, doing it in a way that honors the legacy of Hawaiian culture."

The forest's historic site was once the personal koa forest of King Kamehameha the Great, the first king of Hawaii, but was cleared nearly a century ago to make room for farming and ranching. But some of the old growth koa trees can still be found on site.

"The simple act of sponsoring a Legacy Tree, by countless individuals, has transformed this mountain," said Dunster. "Each tree has a story to tell. Each one was planted and sponsored as a living legacy to honor an individual, memorialize a loved one or to commemorate an event. This forest really belongs to them."

Sponsorship of a koa tree is $60, with $20 of it going to a non-profit group of your choice (Legacy has partnered with more than 100, from AccessSurf to Waimanalo Health Center). Also, $1 from every tree purchased goes to the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust. Sponsorship of a sandalwood tree is $100. You receive a certificate of ownership which gives you the GPS coordinates of your tree, according to its RFID tag, which you can find via Google Earth. The sponsored trees are never harvested.

To sponsor a tree, visit or call 1-877-707-TREE.

Below, certificate I received for sponsoring a tree in honor of "Uncle George and Auntie Dottie" last year (out of my own pocket). Think I will sponsor one for my 3-year-old son, too (we planted a koa in our yard when he was born):


Congrats, monk seal artists

May 19th, 2014


Grade 12 winner. Art by Allysa Pirtle of Laie. Image courtesy Monk Seal Foundation.

Grade 12 winner. Art by Allysa Pirtle of Laie. Image courtesy Monk Seal Foundation.

Congratulations to the following winners of the Monk Seal Foundation's first annual 'Conservation through Art' contest. The foundation received nearly 200 entries from students in grades K through 12 across the state of Hawaii and as far as Conyers, Georgia.

The goal of the contest, held from March 27 to April 11, was to engage the younger generation in learning more about the Hawaiian monk seal and the importance of what conservation of the seal means to them and their environment.

Students were asked to portray the theme: 'The Hawaiian monk seal, a living treasure' and were welcome to submit works of art through painting, drawing, sculptures and collages. The judges, including Wyland, selected one winner from each grade and an overall 'Best in Show' winner.

Here's a sampling of some winners. To see all of them, visit

Grade 7. By Leya Leliaert of Kapolei. Image courtesy Monk Seal Foundation.

Grade 7 winner: Leya Leliaert of Kapolei. Image courtesy Monk Seal Foundation.


Second-grader Chloe Zentkovich's drawing was voted Best in Show. Image courtesy Monk Seal Foundation.

Second-grader Chloe Zentkovich's drawing was voted Best in Show. Image courtesy Monk Seal Foundation.

Grade 6 winner by Aidyn Huh of Kapolei. Image courtesy Monk Seal Foundation.

Grade 6 winner: Aidyn Huh of Kapolei. Image courtesy Monk Seal Foundation.


Grade 5 finalist by Jaca Buddenbaum of Conyers, Georgia. Image courtesy Monk Seal Foundation.

Grade 5 winner: Jaca Buddenbaum of Conyers, Georgia. Image courtesy Monk Seal Foundation.