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Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge

October 10, 2021, 4:03 PM HST
* Updated October 10, 4:56 PM
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The Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge launched their fall Matching Endowment Gift Campaign to reach this year’s $150,000 goal.

Thanks to generous offers by five donors, if Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge can raise $75,000 by Dec. 31, 2021, the donors will match it with $75,000 to grow the Endowment by $150,000. Endowment donations come at a time when threats are increasing rapidly and will support a management program that will mitigate or eliminate those threats before they can impact the native species of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and the ecosystem they call home. 

A robust endowment is essential to ensuring that there are no lapses in funding for needed management activities.  Reliance on uncertain federal appropriations from year to year will seriously jeopardize the success of refuge management programs at Hakalau forest NWR.

“We are incredibly encouraged by the ongoing support for the Hakalau Forest Refuge Management Endowment,” said J.B. Friday, a forester on the faculty of the University of Hawaii and president of the Friends group. “Although our long-term goal for the Endowment is $3.5 million, we raised over $500,000 in the first six years of the Endowment’s existence. This year’s campaign has the potential to get us to almost $700,000 if we can find $75,000 in matching funds.”

Addressing the Threats

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A prime example of how the endowment can make vital contributions to managing the refuge is the work to address the threat of mosquitos and the diseases they carry.

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Dr. Patrick Hart, a professor with the Department of Biology at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and his team started an early warning surveillance system at Hakalau Forest NWR in mid-2020 to monitor mosquito populations, fine-scale changes in temperature, outbreaks of avian malaria and bird responses. Fortunately, the team’s initial findings along two transects between 3,900’ – 5,100’ elevations indicate low mosquito concentrations at present. Future plans call for monthly monitoring of mosquitoes and capturing birds at various elevations to obtain blood samples to detect incipient outbreaks of disease. For the first time Hakalau Refuge NWR will be able to use this exciting research to anticipate mosquito threats and positively respond with proven mosquito controls throughout the entire refuge. The Friends of Hakalau Forest and the Endowment will support this work.

Hawai`i’s numerous environmental challenges may seem insurmountable, however there is hope. Hakalau Forest NWR, on Hawaii Island, is one of the most successfully managed sites for endangered species restoration to date. Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1985 to conserve endangered plants and animals and the native ecosystems of which they are a part. Since establishment, the Refuge has made great strides towards protecting precious endemic forest birds and other species by fencing large areas of the refuge and removing feral ungulates, controlling invasive plant species, and restoring native koa-o’hia forest on former ranch lands that had been virtually denuded of forest. Thousands of endemic plant species, several of them endangered, were out-planted to the understory and endangered forest birds like the `Akiapola’au, I’iwi and ‘Alawi have moved into these recovering forests to once again utilize these resources critical to their survival.

The Refuge is now the only location in Hawaii where endangered forest bird numbers are stable or increasing. The 32,830 acres of Hakalau Forest NWR provide important habitat for 29 critically endangered species including seven birds, one insect, one mammal and 20 plants found nowhere else in the world. Although Hakalau Forest NWR is located high on the slopes of Mauna Kea, recent climate change models predict its endangered birds will soon face the same threats of avian disease that have impacted these species at lower elevations. The need for funding has never been more urgent.

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In late 2015, a number of people who cared about the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge started the Endowment with $67,000. The Endowment Fund has been managed since its inception by the Hawaii Community Foundation. In addition to supporting programs like that initiated by Dr. Patrick Hart, the Endowment’s funds will be used to maintain and expand existing fencing, to support native plant propagation and planting, provide volunteer assistance for important conservation projects and foster public understanding and enjoyment of the Refuge’s natural and cultural resources.

For every dollar donated, the Hakalau Forest Refuge Management Endowment will receive $2, thanks to those generous friends who will match the first $75,000 in donations.

If you would like to donate online, log on to:  https://www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/hakalau-forest-refuge-management-endowment-fund

If you wish to contribute by check, you may make the check out to “Hawaii Community Foundation: Hakalau Forest Endowment” and mail to: 

Hawaii Community Foundation

827 Fort Street Mall

Honolulu, HI, 96813

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