Earth Day at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge
In celebration of Earth Day, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is offering free admission to its Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, April 18. Every year, areas of the refuge are opened to the public in celebration of its Annual Earth Day Celebration Open House.
On Oct. 28, 1985, the refuge was established to protect and manage endangered forest birds and their habitat. The Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge consists of 32,730 acres of native forest and grassland on the windward slope of Mauna Kea, as well as 5,300 acres of forest on the leeward slope of Mauna Loa. Visitors of the site will have the opportunity to celebrate 29 years of citizen supported forest restoration as they explore this “land of many perches,” famous for its native forest birds.
The free event that runs between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. requires reservations for entry. Visitors are invited to begin their day at the Pua ‘Akala Barn, where conservation partners will share displays and information. From the barn, skilled bird guides will lead hikes through high-elevation rainforest. Visitors can expect to see native birds, like the ‘i’iwi and ‘elepaio, in addition to a number of endangered species, like the Hawai’i creeper and Hawai’i ‘akepa.
Aside from hiking, a historic 132-year-old koa cabin will be open for viewing. Visitors can also tour the refuge greenhouse to learn about native mints and lobelias that have been brought back from the brink of extinction and witness the results of the forest restoration program after nearly 30 years.
The Refuge is located on Keanakolu Road/Mana Road and is a moderately rough ride of one-and-a-half to two hours from Hilo, Waimea, or Kona.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials suggest using a four-wheel-drive vehicle to access the site and advise visitors to prepare for wet, cool weather, and to bring their own lunch, water, binoculars, and rain gear. Pets are not allowed on the refuge.
To make required reservations, call the Refuge office in Hilo at 443-2300 by April 16. All participants will be e-mailed with directions and additional information after making a reservation.