Volunteers wage fight against mangrove

NIUMALU — Dr. Carl Berg of Malama Huleia said volunteer Mele Khalsa was a baby plant killer Tuesday during the shoreline cleanup focusing on the removal of invasive red mangrove.

“Look at her,” Berg said. “For every one the Kauai Invasive Species Committee takes down with a chain saw, she has more than a hundred in her bucket.”

The volunteers were working with KISC as part of Hawaii’s 5th annual Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Week being observed with activities and volunteer opportunities on Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island.

“I’m passionate about invasive plants and species,” Khalsa said. “That’s why I’m here. I’m volunteering to help clean the invasive mangrove.”

HISAW promotes information sharing and public engagement in what the Legislature has declared “the single greatest threat to Hawaii’s economy and natural environment, and to the health and lifestyle of Hawaii’s people.”

Tiffany Keanini, KISC spokeswoman, said they hosted a workshop Saturday at Kauai Nursery and Landscaping where they talked a lot about community work on invasive species and their impacts.

“The Hawaiian Islands Land Trust took the lead on a beach cleanup and invasive species removal at the Kahili Beach Preserve Saturday,” said Keanini. “Following this cleanup of invasive mangrove, we’ll have an invasive weed control work day Thursday in the Kokee State Park with the Kokee Resource Conservation Program.”

As part of the HISAW observance, Kawika Winter has been recognized as the Kauai County MVP for his efforts to protect priority watershed areas and control the spread of invasive species on Kauai.

As director of the Limahuli Botanical Garden and Preserve, Winter has played a crucial role in the protection and preservation of more than 1,000 acres of priority watershed area on the North Shore. He aims to create a model of a functioning, 21st century ahupua‘a that focuses on a mountain-to-sea resource management strategy and includes both modern and traditional techniques.

Leilani Mayer of the state’s Vocational Rehabilitation office was among the volunteers braving the chilly winds and threat of rain.

“I just wanted to get involved,” Mayer said. “I can see if the voc rehab clients, especially those looking toward landscaping, are capable of doing work like this. And it makes a difference to the environment.”

Malama Huleia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving key parts of the Nawiliwili Bay watershed by eliminating invasive red mangrove, eventually reaching Alekoko Fishpond, or Menehune Fishpond, and beyond.

Berg pointed out the progress being made from the initial steps of taking out the mangrove.

“Look at this,” he said. “We’ve already reclaimed between 20 to 30 feet of shoreline. The rotting roots of the mangrove that were cut with chain saws will eventually wash away. But where the big trees have been gone, there are pods waiting to sprout. If every one who visits this area pulls out at least one mangrove baby, the place will be clear of the pest.”

“At the rate we’re going, we should be reaching the fishpond very close to the end of the year,” Berg said. “We still need the permission of the Okada family before we can start with the archaeological surveys and studies at the fishpond.”

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