A national treasure

LIHUE — Steve Roush of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has visited the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge several times and considers it among his favorite spots on Kauai.

“I love the birds,” he said Tuesday, peering out over the ocean. “Yes, (the refuge) does deserve to be Top 10.”

Kilauea Point NWR is on the short list to become one of USA Today’s Reader’s Choice 10 Best National Wildlife Refuges.

Jennifer Waipa, supervisory park ranger for KPNWR Complex, said that while the announcement came as a surprise, the refuge is a special place. And for that reason, it makes sense USA Today included it in its list.

“Aside from beautiful scenery, the wildlife — the fact that we have the seabirds, so many seabirds, in such a small area — is pretty incredible,” she said.

Visitors Greg and Nancy Drummond said the refuge is nothing short of beautiful.

“We don’t have anything like this in Georgia,” Nancy said. “We got to view a lot — whales, birds nesting (and) birds.”

The Kauai locale is one of 20 refuges vying for a top spot. Each was selected by a panel of wildlife experts from the more than 550 refuges nationwide.

“Although the nene — Hawaii’s endangered state bird, a.k.a. the Hawaiian goose — is emblematic to the Kauai refuge, its sheer cliffs and ocean waters are home to a number of fascinating creatures,” USA Today writes of Kilauea Point. “It boasts large populations of nesting seabirds, plus Hawaiian monk seals and spinner dolphins. Its historic lighthouse punctuates the island’s rugged and dramatic north shore.”

Kilauea Point NWR is one of two refuges in Hawaii fighting for a Reader’s Choice honor, the other being Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge on the Big Island. Individuals can vote for their favorite refuge once every day until the contest ends March 30.

Jane Hoffman, executive director of the Kilauea Point Natural History Association, said the contest offers an opportunity to increase awareness for not only Kilauea Point, but the National Wildlife Refuge System as a whole.

“It’s exciting,” she said of being in the running. “More people coming in may mean higher sales which would translate into more funding for programs and project at the refuge.”

As of Tuesday, KPNWR was not among the top vote-getters. Currently, the top five are: 1. J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida; 2. Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, Puerto Rico; 3. Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas; National Elk Refuge, Wyoming; 5. Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana.

Being considered this year in the category of “Best Hawaiian Beach” are Kauai’s own Anini, Hanalei and Poipu beaches. Voting for Best Hawaiian Beach ends March 16.

Kilauea Point NWR was established in 1985 to preserve and enhance seabird nesting colonies and was expanded in 1988 to include Crater Hill and Mokolea Point. The refuge is home to the historic Kilauea Point Lighthouse — renamed in 2013 after the the late Sen. Daniel Inouye — which sits on the northernmost point of Kauai.

To vote, visit www.10best.com.

• Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

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