Volunteers lend a hand to the forest on Public Lands Day

| October 11, 2017 | 0 Comments

Army natural resources volunteers hike into the National Public Lands Day worksite in Kahanahāiki, Makua Military Reservation. (Photo by Oahu Army Natural Resources Program)

Celeste Hanley
Oahu Army Natural Resources
Directorate of Public Words
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — On Saturday, Sept. 30, 13 volunteers with the Army’s natural resources program joined thousands of people across the nation in celebration of National Public Lands Day (NPLD), the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands.

Volunteers accompanied staff on an interpretive hike in the northern Wai‘anae Mountains and ventured into Kahanahāiki ahupua‘a (traditional land division), a protected natural area within the Makua Military Reservation, which is home to 11 federally listed endangered species managed by the Army’s natural resources program.   Hiking along the ridgeline and dipping into shady gulches, volunteers learned about Hawaiian plants along the way, such as the fragrant maile vine, a traditional lei-making resource, and the ‘ōhi‘a, a primary canopy tree in the Hawaiian forest. With a greater appreciation for the native species at Kahanahāiki, volunteers were well prepared to mālama ‘āina (care for the land) in a section of the forest that was overcome by weeds.

The work area was packed with thickets of strawberry guava and lilikoi, plants often associated with Hawaii that are actually introduced from South America and detrimental to fragile Hawaiian ecosystems. Armed with sturdy hand tool and gloves, volunteers cut down these weeds, among others, in an effort to restore Kahanahāiki forest.

Kahuli (Achatinella mustelina), a tree snail unique to the Waianae Mountains of Oahu, is one of the endangered species that Army natural resources staff and volunteers protect through habitat improvement. (Photo by Oahu Army Natural Resources Program)

While controlling weeds supports a healthy plant habitat at Kahanahāiki, animals who call this Hawaiian forest home will also benefit from the NPLD efforts. Native Hawaiian honeycreeper birds such as the ‘amakihi and ‘apapane rely on Hawaiian plants for nectar. The songs of the birds resonated in the forest canopy throughout the day, and a few volunteers were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them in flight.

As the National Public Lands Day crew pushes forward to clear a thicket of weeds at Kahanahaiki, volunteer Matt Liang consolidates cut trees into piles. (Photo by Oahu Army Natural Resources Program)

Snail protection
Kāhuli (Achatinella mustelina), an endangered O‘ahu tree snail, was also an exciting sight for participants. The Army protects these snails from non-native predators–rats, Jackson’s chameleons and cannibal snails–through unique fences that create a sanctuary for this rare species.  Volunteers enjoyed peering into the enclosure to search for the ornate, nickel-sized snails clinging to the undersides of leaves, noting the distinctive chocolate and cream-spiraled color patterns characteristic of the Kahanahāiki snail population.

Nov. 14 will comprise a second NPLD effort for the natural resources staff and interested volunteers, who will outplant native plants and collect fruit for future restoration efforts.  Volunteers will not only get to see Hawaiian plants and animals but actively help protect them so that future generations may enjoy these precious resources on our nation’s public lands.

If you are interested in getting involved with the NPLD efforts or other volunteer opportunities with the Army natural resources program, contact Celeste Hanley or Kim Welch at outreach@oanrp.com or 656-7741.



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