Friends of Hakalau Forest
National Wildlife Refuge
Fall 2020 Newsletter
Celebrate Hakalau's Forests and Birds
Hakalau’s 2020 Matching Gift Campaign
Thanks to an extremely generous offer by SIX donors, if we can raise $30,000 this fall, they will match it with up to $30,000. That will help us substantially increase our Endowment, giving us the funds needed to help Hakalau Forest NWR in its efforts to conserve the integrity, diversity and health of native species and ecosystems. Some of the projects we would be able to support include invasive plant and animal control, fence construction and maintenance, and the propagation and out-planting of native plant species. More information about this campaign and these six donors will be in your inbox soon.
Presidents' Perch Fall 2020

J.B. Friday

President, Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge
In This Issue



New Refuge Staff - Leah Messer


Research News

Stories from the early history of the Refuge

Americans who care about our mountains, forests, waters, and wildlife received some historic good news when Congress passed and President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act. The Associated Press hailed the Act as "the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century." The Act received overwhelming bipartisan support, passing by 310 to 107 votes in the House and 72 to 25 votes in the Senate.

The Act will appropriate billions of dollars to protect natural resources on public lands. The largest pool of funding will go to the National Park Service to address deferred maintenance at the National Parks. Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, of course, has an enormous backlog of repairs needed after the recent eruptions of Kīlauea Volcano and will greatly benefit from the funding. Additional funding will go to the Fish and Wildlife Service for maintenance on the Refuges, so Hakalau Forest may directly benefit. Another part of the Act, though, is funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which goes to purchase lands or easements of lands that include critical habitat for endangered species among other values. These lands can expand Refuges or provide buffers to protect core habitat areas.

The Act passed with huge majorities because it has something for everyone. Conservationists of course celebrate increasing access to our Parks and Refuges and additional lands protected for natural ecosystems. Western governors and politicians supported the act on economic grounds as well, as they see outdoor recreation becoming increasingly important in their states’ economies. Everyone wants more chances to get outside during COVID lockdowns. Maybe we once again can move to a political space where conservation is seen as a conservative value as well as a liberal one. Teddy Roosevelt established the Forest Service, five National Parks, and 150 National Forests. Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. Protecting our public lands and creating more opportunities for everyone to enjoy them benefits all Americans.
Refuge Update – Summer 2020
Big Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Aloha Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR
I hope everyone is well and staying safe as the covid pandemic continues.

Hakalau staff have continued to maintain operations at the refuge keeping up with greenhouse operations, invasive species management, fence maintenance, and a long list of maintenance activities since our last update.

We will soon begin to implement several infrastructure contracts that were recently awarded. These projects include a facilities upgrade, an extensive road improvement project, and a fence replacement project. There will be a lot of contract activity going on at Hakalau over the next few months - stay tuned for updates!

Also, the refuge has initiated a plan with Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to reevaluate our feral ungulate (i.e. pigs) management program in the coming year and preliminary work by APHIS has begun. Refuge staff have also been working with the Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC) on a project to eradicate Photinia davidiana, an invasive evergreen shrub, from the Honohina unit. With funding from the Refuge system’s Invasive Species Strike Team (ISST) and assistance from BIISC we hope to see this weed eradicated from the refuge in the near future.

On a staffing note our new Visitor Services Manager, Leah Messer, is officially on-board! Leah started her one-year term position in mid-July and will be working with volunteer groups as soon as we are able to get back to a regular volunteer work routine. In the meantime, Leah will be working on outreach and education projects, special use permits, and creating a new system for organizing volunteer groups and trips. Welcome Leah!
Last but not least, our very own Steve Kendall was awarded the prestigious Meritorious Service Award by the Department of the Interior on Thursday, August 20th in recognition of his excellence and outstanding service to the US Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wildlife Refuge System and Migratory Bird programs. The award was presented in a virtual ceremony attended by service employees throughout the region. Recognized throughout the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a premiere biologist, Steve is known and highly regarded for his breadth of expertise as evident by his impressive list of published papers covering a broad array of resource conservation and management issues.
 Steve joined the team at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge in 2011 and has been instrumental in spearheading numerous on-going management and conservation efforts on the refuge and throughout the region. Steve's 30 years of service reflect great credit upon himself, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of the Interior. Congratulations Steve!!!
New Refuge Staff - Leah Messer
Prior to joining the team at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge Leah Messer worked for the National Park Service in a variety of parks, most recently as a Project Manager in the division of Interpretation and Visitor Services at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Empire, MI. Leah graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor of science in forestry in 2010. After earning her degree she went to work as a seasonal employee for the US Forest Service (USFS), Southern Research Station and subsequently as a contractor for the USFS where she worked collecting forest inventory data and marking timber for harvest operations on national forests throughout the southeast region. Before working in the forest resources and conservation fields Leah joined the US Air Force (Active Duty) in September 2002 and she continues to serve as a reservist working as an Operations Intelligence Analyst having deployed several times. Leah will be joined by her girlfriend of six years, Melanie, who currently resides on the mainland. Leah and Melanie enjoy photography, exploring new places, and are passionate about conservation. 
Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge – NEW WEBSITE!
We are very excited to announce the launch of our newly designed website. After five months of hard work and dedication, we launched our new website on September 10, 2020. We wanted to make the new website faster, easier to navigate and more user-friendly. You’ll find all this on the new website, as well as amazing images of Hakalau’s forest birds – the iiwi, elepaio, amakihi and more – and our rare endemic plants.
Our website’s number one objective was to increase awareness for FOHF by informing and educating more people about the Refuge, and also by sharing our information-filled quarterly newsletters. Our second objective was to grow our membership, so please share our URL with interested friends and family on social media, and encourage them to JOIN. Our membership costs are minimal - $25 per year for individuals, $10 for students and seniors, and $35 for families.

We also wanted to make merchandise sales and fundraising easier to navigate. As you’ll see, we’re selling FOHF t-shirts and other merchandise on our STORE page. And we encourage you to donate to our very important Hakalau Forest Refuge Management ENDOWMENT which funds special ecological management projects at the Refuge. Our new 2020 "Celebrating Hakalau's Forests and Birds" fundraising campaign starts this month: we'd be thrilled if you would please click the DONATE NOW button at the top of this newsletter to support our efforts to substantially increase our Endowment.

We welcome feedback on our new website or on any other matters involving FOHF; please send us an email on the CONTACT US page.

Let’s all celebrate and support Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, a huge conservation success story as measured by stable or increasing endemic forest bird populations on the slopes of Mauna Kea.

Mahalo nui loa for all of Board Member Debbie Anderson's work on updating the website with Abi Braceros at Tradewind Graphics.
Hawai`i Island Festival of Birds
October 15-19
Virtual Event
The Hawai`i Island Festival of Birds is virtual this year! HIFB Virtual 2020 is managed by the Hawaii Wildlife Center and supported by Friends of Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge. Presentations will include talk story sessions about birding in Hawaii, virtual explorations, information about our unique wanderers and migrants and the birds of Papahanaumokuakea, art and cultural lessons, and more! All HIFB Virtual events will be pre-recorded video, many of which will feature new content created specifically for the festival (including a virtual birding tour of Hakalau by renowned biologist and photograper Jack Jeffrey). Each presentation will be shared to the HIFB website on its designated day for registrants to view at their own pace. To make the festival a little more interactive, each day of the festival will have prize opportunities linked to a question from one of the day’s presentations. Click the button below for more information and to register. Registration is free. There will also be a few opportunities to win HIFB Virtual 2020 prizes ahead of the festival, so it’s worth it to register early! 
January Annual Meeting
The annual meeting of the Friends will be in January and will include the election of at least 4 new board members. If you would like to volunteer to serve on the board or nominate someone for the board, please contact one of the nominating committee members, JB Friday, Pat Hart or Cathy Lowder.
Chris Farmer
American Bird Conservancy
Race Against Extinction: Applying Wolbachia to Save Hawai‘i’s Forest Birds

Hawai‘i is world-renowned for its biodiversity, with incredible species’ radiations in lobelioids, fruit flies (Drosophila), land snails, and other groups. Among the most impressive and eye-catching are birds – particularly the Hawaiian honeycreepers, such as the ‘Akiapōlā‘au, Hawai‘i ‘Ākepa, and ‘I‘iwi – with their huge range in coloration and bill types. Tragically, nearly two-thirds of all native birds have gone extinct since humans arrived on the Hawaiian Islands, and most of the remaining species are at risk (1). Key factors include predation by cats, mongooses, and rats; habitat degradation by feral pigs and other ungulates; and habitat conversion for pastures and development. However, the most serious threat comes from non-native mosquitoes that transmit avian malaria and pox.
Avian disease and Hawai‘i’s native birds

Introduced diseases—avian malaria and pox virus— transmitted by introduced mosquitoes are responsible for much of the decline in Hawai‘i’s songbirds (2, 3). Mosquitoes were introduced to Hawai‘i in the early 1800s, avian pox in the late 1800s, and avian malaria in the early 1900s. With no prior exposure or natural immunity, our native songbirds are highly susceptible to these pathogens transmitted by the Southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus). Mosquitoes, and the diseases they carry, contributed to the extinction of over 24 species of Hawai‘i’s honeycreepers, plus another seven species from other taxa (4), including the extinction of the entire Mohoidae family (5) – the majestic ‘Ō‘ō group along with their haunting songs.
Other species of introduced mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, bite humans and are linked to outbreaks of dengue fever in Hawai‘i; it is likely only a matter of time before outbreaks of other mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika and chikungunya arrive in the state (6).
The impact from introduced mosquitoes can be clearly seen. Presently, there are almost no native songbirds at elevations below 4,500 ft (1,370 m) where mosquitoes are abundant. With global climate change, mosquitoes are expanding into higher elevation forests and causing rapid declines in many of the remaining native bird populations (7, 8, 9). Unless action is taken now, mosquitoes are expected to spread to all remaining disease-free forest habitats and cause the extinction of no fewer than 12 species of Hawaiʻi’s remaining honeycreepers, and have a negative effect on the populations of remaining native thrushes, flycatchers, and ‘Alalā (3, 7, 8).
The situation on Kaua‘i and Maui provides a dire prelude for Hawai‘i Island and Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge. The collapse of six of seven native songbirds on Kaua‘i, coincident with increases in Culex quinquefasciatus and avian malaria in native birds, indicates the effects of climate change are already taking place (8, 9). Mosquitoes are now found on the Alaka‘i Plateau throughout the year, with huge increases in abundance being detected in prime forest bird habitat. Protecting these birds has been complicated by the difficulty in finding local larval breeding sites, indicating the mosquitoes are breeding elsewhere and dispersing into the mauka forests. Kaua‘i’s endemic ‘Akeke‘e and ‘Akikiki, both listed by USFWS as Endangered, have shown recent population declines of 89–98 percent and are projected to become extinct in the near future (9).
The failure of last year’s Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill) translocation project on Haleakalā (10) due to avian malaria is another urgent warning sign for all of Hawai‘i’s birds. Subsequent surveys showed a substantial increase in mosquito abundance at the release site compared with the pre-translocation surveys. Additional surveys in the source area showed lower Kiwikiu detections and the presence of malaria, suggesting that mosquito densities are increasing in the remaining occupied forest bird habitat and the highly sensitive, native bird species are decreasing.

This conservation crisis requires bold, science-based actions to solve the complex issue of avian malaria transmission. Hakalau is considered the jewel of Hawaiian forest bird conservation, but as mosquitoes expand upslope with increasing temperatures, avian disease will decrease the ‘I‘iwi, ‘Akiapōlā‘au, ‘Alawī, ‘Ākepa and other native bird populations. Bold actions, taken now, can halt the spread of mosquito-borne diseases and protect all these imperiled birds from extinction – saving these birds for future generations. In addition, addressing this conservation issue can help to advance efforts to reduce the threats to humans of disease outbreaks.
Applying New Technologies to Address Avian Malaria

Conventional mosquito control methods cannot permanently suppress or eradicate mosquitoes in Hawai‘i, but new technological approaches offer feasible solutions to this previously intractable problem. One such approach is the Incompatible Insect Technique (IIT), which offers a safe and effective strategy for suppressing mosquitoes across large spatial scales.

This approach involves injecting the eggs of mosquitoes with a very common, naturally-occurring strain of bacteria called Wolbachia that is present in more than 60% of insects. These mosquitoes are then reared in a laboratory and the males are released into the wild. Males do not bite birds or humans, only the females do. When the released males mate with wild females the females produce eggs that are not viable and will never hatch. By releasing enough males to outcompete with wild males, mosquito populations will decrease due to failed reproduction, and can even lead to an eradication of a population (11, 12, 13).

This approach is being pursued in Hawai‘i because of a growing body of evidence that it is safe, based upon extensive worldwide releases (12, 14). By modifying a technique that has been approved for human health, we can take advantage of significant investments already made in this technology and maximize the limited resources available for conservation in Hawai‘i. Further, by using a technology that can also be deployed to solve human health issues in Hawai‘i we hope to increase support for this approach for non-native mosquito suppression. 

In the U.S. the Wolbachia approach has already been tested in Lexington, KY, Key West, FL, and Los Angeles, CA. In November 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registered a Wolbachia-modified Aedes aegypti mosquito for use in 20 states (not including Hawaiʻi) plus Washington, D.C., to combat human diseases. Millions of these modified male mosquitoes have been released per week in Fresno, CA during 2017, 2018, and 2019 (15). Because Wolbachia is a naturally occurring symbiont and is only passed on through sexual reproduction, opposition to this approach has been low in other locations where it has been applied.

Consensus among conservation practitioners and federal and state biologists has emerged that ITT is the best and most promising approach to save Hawai‘i’s native birds (16).
Steering Committee on Landscape-scale Mosquito Control

American Bird Conservancy, State, Federal, and other partners are collaborating to develop and test the mosquito birth control approach, collect data on mosquito abundance and distribution to construct a successful implementation strategy, work with local communities to raise the awareness and support required to implement mosquito control in Hawai‘i’s forests, and secure the necessary government regulatory permissions to proceed – all at the same time! To accomplish these objectives, they formed the Steering Committee on Landscape-scale Mosquito Control. 

Intensive research is occurring on Kaua‘i and East Maui to determine the mosquitoes’ density and breeding sites, which will be used to determine release locations, frequency, and numbers. Understanding how the mosquito moves on the landscape is necessary for both the implementation and post-release monitoring. The Wolbachia-mosquito, developed using Hawaiian biotypes, is nearly ready to be tested in a secure lab, and once that has been shown to be effective it will be reared and brought back to Hawai‘i for additional tests of its effectiveness in a controlled setting. The Steering Committee is working to secure permits from the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture to re-import our Hawaii mosquitoes with the different Wolbachia strain. We also are working to obtain permits from the US Environmental Protection Agency to test and register the Wolbachia mosquitoes for release on the landscape. The initial test permitting, and EUP or Experimental Use Permit, should be secured in 2021 with the small test trials in 2022. Based on the regulatory approval timeline for similar applications on the mainland, the deployment could be expanded in 2023, and wider landscape-scale releases by 2024. 

Transparency and community engagement are integral components of any landscape-scale mosquito control aimed at preventing forest bird extinctions. Active community guidance is necessary for any success. Protecting the native birds of Hawaiʻi will require sustained, sincere engagement among local communities and a wide range of other stakeholders. Success will be unlikely without their unique knowledge and contributions. We have begun this process, but covid safety precautions have slowed it down. ABC and all the Steering Committee partners expect to greatly increase our listening sessions and discussions in the near future to ensure no other Hawaiian birds go extinct.  
The Time is Now

Scientists have known about the avian malaria-mosquito-forest bird relationship since the 1960s (17) – but were unable to do anything about it at the landscape-scale. The warming climate is allowing mosquitoes and disease to move up and into the previously safe refuges on Haleakalā, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa, adding even more urgency to the problem. The last Po‘ouli died in 2004. The Kiwikiu, ‘Akikiki, and ‘Akeke‘e are all at severe risk now and could easily go extinct if we do not take bold action. Hakalau’s gorgeous honeycreepers will follow shortly thereafter. The timeline is tight to prevent another extinction in our lifetimes. But there is hope to save all of Hawai‘i’s forest birds - exciting, novel advances that have been successful at stopping human diseases are now available to solve the avian disease crisis. We can and must save Hawai‘i’s remaining birds.
About the Author
Dr. Chris Farmer is Hawai‘i Program Director for American Bird Conservancy, working on saving Hawai‘i’s native birds from the Island of Hawai‘i out to Midway. He guides ABC’s activities involving mosquito control techniques to solve Hawaiian birds’ avian disease-mosquito crisis. His projects focus on Hawaiian forest bird ecology and behavior; biology and logistics of translocations; the impacts of exotic predators, rodents, and ungulates; influences of invasive arthropods on native food webs; and forest regeneration and growth. Reach him for comment or questions at [email protected]

(1) Buchanan GM, Donald PF, Butchart SHM. 2011. Identifying priority areas for conservation: a global assessment for forest-dependent birds. PLoS One 6:e29080. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029080

(2) Atkinson CT, LaPointe DA. 2009. Introduced avian diseases, climate change, and the future of Hawaiian honeycreepers. Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery 23:53–63.

(3) Atkinson CT, LaPointe DA. 2009. Ecology and pathogenicity of avian malaria and pox. pp 234–252 in Conservation Biology of Hawaiian Forest Birds. (Pratt TK, Atkinson CT, Banko PC, Jacobi JD, Woodworth BL, eds.). Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.

(4) Pyle RL, Pyle P. 2017. The Birds of the Hawaiian Islands: Occurrence, History, Distribution, and Status. B.P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, HI. Version 2.

(5) Fleischer RC, James HF, Olson SL. 2008. Convergent evolution of Hawaiian and Australo-Pacific honeyeaters from distant songbird ancestors. Current Biology 18:1927–1931. doi 10.1016/j.cub.2008.10.051

(6) Roth A, Mercier A, Lepers C, Hoy D, Duituturaga S, Benyon E, Guillaumot L, Souarès Y. 2014. Concurrent outbreaks of dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus infections – an unprecedented epidemic wave of mosquito-borne viruses in the Pacific 2012–2014. EuroSurveillance 19:pii=20929.

(7) Atkinson CT, Utzurrum RB, LaPointe DA, Camp RJ, Crampton LH, Foster JT, Giambelluca TW. 2014. Changing climate and the altitudinal range of avian malaria in the Hawaiian Islands – an ongoing conservation crisis on the island of Kaua‘i. Global Change Biology 20:2426–2436. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12535

(8) Fortini LB, Vorsino AE, Amidon FA, Paxton EH, Jacobi JD. 2015. Large-scale range collapse of Hawaiian forest birds under climate change and the need for 21st century conservation options. PLoS One 10:e0140389. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0140389

(9) Paxton EH, Camp RJ, Gorresen PM, Crampton LH, Leonard, Jr., DL, VanderWerf EA. 2016. Collapsing avian community on a Hawaiian island. Science Advances 2:e1600029. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1600029

(10) Eagle N. 2019. Fighting to save this rare Maui forest bird from extinction. Honolulu Civil Beat, November 14.

(11) Zabalou S, Riegler M, Theodorakopoulou M, Stauffer C, Savakis C, Bourtzis K. 2004. Wolbachia-induced cytoplasmic incompatibility as a means for insect pest population control. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 101:15042–15045.

(12) Atyame CM, Cattel J, Lebon C, Flores O, Dehecq J, Weill M, Gouagna LC, Tortosa P. 2015. Wolbachia-based population control strategy targeting Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitos proves efficient under semi-field conditions. PLoS One 10:1–15. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0119288

(13) Mains JW, Brelsfoard CL, Rose RI, Dobson SL. 2016. Female adult Aedes albopictus suppression by Wolbachia-infected male mosquitos. Scientific reports 6:33846. doi: 10.1038/srep33846

(14) Jiggins FM. 2017. The spread of Wolbachia through mosquito populations. PLoS Biol 15:e2002780.

(17) Warner RE. 1968. The role of introduced diseases in the extinction of the endemic Hawaiian avifauna. Condor 70:101–120.
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Stories from the early history of the Refuge
2020 is the 35th anniversary of the founding of Hakalau Forest NWR. As a way to celebrate, I am collecting stories to print in the newsletter. This issue covers the early management of Hakalau Forest NWR. If you have any stories and/or photos to share please send them to [email protected] so I can include them in the future issues.
The beginning of management of the refuge
Jerry Leinecke
I arrived in Hawaii in July 1984, having been selected by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to serve as Project Leader for the Hawaii and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Prior to my arrival I had been briefed on Hawaii/Pacific Islands Refuge operations by Rob Shallenberger before he departed for the Central Office of Refuges in Washington, DC. Rob’s briefing touched on the proposal to establish a Refuge for endangered Hawaiian forest birds on the Big Island.

Shortly after arrival, I received more in-depth briefings on Refuge operations from Pacific Islands Administrator, Al Marmelstein. His briefings included the current status of the proposed forest bird refuge. Al’s briefing included many of the details involved in the development of the proposal. Included were the names, positions, agencies of the many people involved in the
vision, field work, on going coordination with the FWS Regional Office, the State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the Nature Conservancy (TNC) and land owners, among several others.

At this time I had not met any of those involved, but began to get the feeling that the proposal was moving forward quickly. I realized the need to engage with those with the information I would need to be able to better understand the significance of the overall project. Initial meetings were scheduled and conducted with most of the local players involved with the initiative.

During this same time period I was becoming involved with the forest bird refuge proposal, I was engaging with the U.S. Coast Guard to promote a transfer of the light house and associated property from the Coast Guard at Kilauea Point on Kauai to the FWS to establish the Kilauea Point NWR. The transfer was completed in February, 1985.

As my involvement with Kilauea Point eased there became an increase in the intensity of activities focused on the proposed forest bird refuge proposal. Coordination among the PIA, the FWS Regional Office, FWS Ecological Services Office (ES) in Honolulu, DLNR, TNC, congressional contacts and land owners were frequent. Although involved in the meetings, I mostly listened to increase my understanding of the complexity of the issue.
My input to the many discussions was limited as I had yet to visit and see the proposed area. I could not comment on what management tools may be required in the event the refuge became established. Pete Stein, Wildlife Biologist for ES, had been involved in the field work of bird surveys and inventory and was very familiar with the properties to be acquired, the land owners, the land issues and the native birds.

Ernie Kosaka, Field Supervisor for ES, suggested Pete accompany me to the project site for orientation and familiarization to provide a background for the continuing discussions that I would participate in. Arrangements were quickly made for Pete, Stu Fefer, Wildlife Biologist for the Refuge Complex, and me to visit the project area for two days.

The three of us traveled to the Shipman Tract for my first visit. We also were able to observe the additional proposed tracts that had been outlined in the acquisition proposal. A long day well spent. Pete’s knowledge of the entire project allowed me to understand the good (birds), the bad (grazing) and the ugly (feral pigs) and what management strategies would need to be implemented in the future.

Pete and I visited the proposed site on several occasions but a followup visit shortly after the initial visit drove home to me the importance of the project. We had lunch under an old Koa tree. It was quiet. Only the chattering of the birds around us could be heard. We spent a couple of hours listening to the birds with Pete assisting me to identify the various calls and the seeing the birds associated with the calls. I was hooked. On the return to Honolulu, I told Pete I now had the appreciation for the volume of work folks had accomplished, the importance of the proposed land acquisition and the importance of preservation of the endangered forest birds.

Time passed quickly as involved personnel continued intense coordination to draw agencies, non-government organizations, land owners and political contacts into concurrence to move forward toward refuge establishment. One tough hurdle was overcome when FWS Regional Office Directorate concluded the project was significant and approved it. Tradition in the FWS revolved around support for migratory waterfowl and the national significance of waterfowl projects. The acquisition of land for the establishment of an Endangered Forest Bird Refuge in Hawaii was not a high priority, so Regional and National Office approval was significant.

As the project continued forward, I began to receive calls from Kelvin Takada of TNC encouraging me to start thinking of prioritizing which management strategies would need to be addressed shortly after land acquisition and refuge establishment. Kelvin emphasized the importance of active management initiating quickly as everyone involved in this project would be closely monitoring.

The Refuge was established in October, 1985 with the FWS acquiring the Shipman property from the TNC.

It was determined that one of the first and most important management actions would be to inventory the cattle on the Shipman Tract and put the grazing under Refuge Special Use Permit. Initial contact with Roy Blackshear of Shipman Estate occurred quickly and negotiation began for removal of the cattle. We preferred to remove the cattle within a year but the Estate requested a five year permit. A three year time line was agreed upon and the permit was issued.

The Refuge had been approved by the Regional Office but I was advised that no new funding would be provided until future budgets were established. Within that guideline, I became the designated “Refuge Manager” for the Refuge even though I was in Honolulu.

Day trip visits began to increase. Meetings with the former land owner and the on site cattle manager “cowboys”, as well as adjacent land owners became a regular activity. Six o’clock flights to Hilo and late flights back to Honolulu identified the need for an on-site bunkhouse. The Shipman property included a couple buildings scattered around the tract. Most were unusable or already occupied by the cowboys.

Dan Moriarty, Refuge Manager of Kilauea Point NWR and I spent a day on the Refuge to select a site to build a small bunkhouse. The site was outstanding as it overlooked the Refuge area and was close to the access road. Dan volunteered to go to the site and construct a building to be used for overnight stays. He was on the site for a month with a very limited budget, using local donations such as wood and paint from Hilo business’s and the cattle ranchers. He purchased supplies as necessary to complete the modest cabin. An outhouse was built to complement the facility. The buildings now allowed for personnel to stay overnight and extend site visits. The facilities were later expanded to become the on-site headquarters that could also accommodate volunteers.

Within the next fiscal year, I was advised I could hire a Refuge Manager for the new Refuge, but the hire was to be someone already on staff within the Refuge Complex. I began an internal recruitment for a manager. Several staff exhibited interest in the assignment but were not interested in relocating to the Big Island.
I approached Refuge Manager Richard “Dick” Wass who was managing marine resources the Northwestern Hawaiian Island Refuges. Dick was a Marine Biologist with a PhD specializing in sharks. He exhibited interest in the offer to go to the Big Island, but needed some time to discuss the opportunity with his wife and family. Within a couple of days, Dick advised he would be very interested in the job and accepted the offer to become the first full time manager of the new Refuge.

Al Marmelstein approved the selection with the next hurdle to get Regional Office approval. I received a lot of heat from the RO as how I could hire a shark biologist to manage an endangered forest bird refuge. My response was simple. I didn’t need a forest bird biologist, I needed a strong manager with good communication skills and Dick was perfect. After much grumbling from above, Dick was approved as the first full time Refuge Manager for what would become the Hakalau Forest NWR.

Dick and I traveled to Hilo on several occasions to locate and secure an office site, visit the Refuge, meet with former land owners, cattle ranchers, U.S. Forest Service and Big Island DLNR staff, etc.

Shortly thereafter, Dick and his family relocated to Hilo. I slowly began transferring project information and authority to Dick as he became familiar with the project and began management. Regular phone contacts and occasional visits with Dick followed as his leadership with Refuge Management became established.

Thanks for the opportunity to provide this insight into the establishment of the Hakalau Forest NWR 35 years ago.
Friends of Hakalau Forest, National Wildlife Refuge is a 501 (C)(3) organization and is recognized as a tax exempt non-profit organization by the Federal government and the State of Hawaii. We appreciate and thank you for your membership and your donations.

   J.B. Friday
Vice President
   Debbie Anderson
   Patrick Hart
   Cathy Lowder

 Members at large
Denise Antonlini
Creighton Litton
Eben Paxton
Patricia Richardson
George Robertson
Don Romero
Mike Scott  
Rob Shallenberger