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UH-Hilo Honored For Stewardship of Maunakea

June 26, 2022, 11:00 AM HST
* Updated June 26, 9:51 AM
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Gov. David Ige is pictured with University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship staff members Jessica Kirkpatrick, Greg Chun and Nahua Guilloz. (Photos courtesy of University of Hawaiʻi)

A University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo agency focused on restoring and protecting native plants and animals on Maunakea was recently honored for its efforts.

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce on Friday, June 24, awarded the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship with the 2022 Pūalu Award for Community Education. The award honors organizations that promote and support education and enrichment programs that develop personal skills and lifelong learning.

Community volunteers help pull weeds and plant native flora on Maunakea.

“We are moved by this acknowledgement, which helps shine a spotlight on our dedicated (Center for Maunakea Stewardship) staff members who pour their hearts into stewarding these precious lands,” Nahua Guilloz, director of stewardship at the center, said in a press release. “Enriching the ecosystem on the mauna helps to bridge other aspects of the project together that opens the door to educating and connecting with all who come to Maunakea.”

“The awardees demonstrate leadership while working together for the betterment of West Hawaiʻi,” Wendy Laros, executive director at Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, said in the release.

This is the third Pūalu award UH-Hilo has received for its stewardship of Maunakea.

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In 2016, UH was honored for its environmental awareness on the mauna and in 2017, for culture and heritage. Also in 2017, the Hawaiʻi Historic Foundation presented UH with a Preservation Commendation Award, the foundation’s highest recognition of preservation, rehabilitation, restoration and interpretation of the state’s architectural, archaeological and cultural heritage.

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Launched in 2019, the Center for Maunakea Stewardship native plant restoration project around the Maunakea Visitor Information Station focuses on enhancing the area’s ecosystem with native plants, providing a refuge for native birds while helping to slow erosion and the decline of valuable plants and animals.

Native plant restoration area surrounding the Maunakea Visitor Information Station.

As of November 2021, propagated native plant counts include:

  • 495 māmane.
  • 120 ʻāweoweo.
  • 1,295 ʻenaʻena.
  • 17 pāwale.
  • 782 native grasses.

Hundreds of native māmane also have sprouted on their own.

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“We’re also seeing plants we planted start to set flower and seed. And so we’re collecting seeds from those plants that we planted in our restoration area which is incredible for only two years of work,” Jessica Kirkpatrick, natural resource specialist for the Center for Maunakea Stewardship, said in the press release.

As part of the restoration efforts, the center also built a greenhouse just above the restoration area with the help of community volunteers and donated supplies provided by HPM Building Supply. The structure is an essential component of the restoration effort.

The overarching goal is to host groups from local schools and the community to help collect, prepare, plant and eventually outplant back into the environment.

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