Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge
Summer 2021 Newsletter
Baron Horiuchi and His Merry Band Of Volunteers - Ohana, Energy, Laulima
December 31,2021 will mark the end of a twenty five year era, not just for Hakalau Forest NWR, but also for hundreds of volunteers who have sweated, toiled, gotten muddy, and shivered in its greenhouses, forests and fields. Over many weekends these volunteers shared sore muscles, bruises, scrapes, and stories of the day’s work over meals in the volunteer cabin, amid laughter, music and spontaneous humor together with their mentor and center of gravity, Baron Horiuchi. Aloha aina energy emanated from this sharing of not only the wonders of Hakalau Forest’s unique Hawaiian rainforest habitat, but also the resultant bonding and trust flowing from their relationships with each other and with Baron.
A little over a quarter century ago, this Hilo native, like many of his contemporaries, migrated into construction after high school. In relatively short order, the resulting toll on his body left him in a sling for a year with all manner of ailments. Realizing that this path might be rather short and uncomfortably limited, he decided to expand his horizon at UH Hilo.
Serendipity and a flier in an ag orientation class which touted plant quarantine jobs seemed like a good option. But a chance discussion with Department Head Dr. Michael Tanabe, guided his path toward horticulture. He later realized, as many people later in life do, that their future was made possible by chance or special teachers. In Baron’s case, professors Michael Tanabe and Bill Sakai became his mentors. And, as if by magic, perhaps true magic, a diploma appeared just in time to cause Hakalau’s Manager Dick Wass and Biologist Jack Jeffrey to literally pull Baron Horiuchi’s job application out of the waste basket. And the rest has been history.

Refuge Manager, Dick Wass, a man of few, but well chosen words, as Baron received accolades and awards that then and now continue to embarrass him, confided to Baron: “You may not know this, but you were NOT my first choice….. But you have turned out to be better than anyone else could possibly have been.”
What exactly was Baron’s assignment 25 years ago? He was hired initially on a two year part time contract by RCUH. At that time the Refuge was gamely attempting to plant koa seedlings from a Waimea nursery with help from Oahu and Big Island Sierra Club and Outdoor Circle volunteers, in nice little lines in old cattle pastures, very much a trial with lots of learning opportunities (see last newsletter about the frost guards).
Baron came to be the FWS Refuge’s first and only horticulturist after Jim Glynn, Hakalau Forest's Deputy Manager created the position out of whole cloth as no template existed. So Baron was told- you’ve got all of the koa (the Waimea seedlings now were arriving ant infested) AND non-koa plants as your kuleana and a greenhouse. Big help, right? Figuring out which non-koa plants to propagate and how to actually propagate them and how plant them and where, became his main job. Maintaining the greenhouse - pumps, sprinklers, generator, etc also became his kuleana. This included replacing the plastic covering after storms.
So now that Baron was propagating non-koa native seedlings, someone needed to PLANT these seedlings before they became root bound. But as with most organizations, when pressed to assign work and responsibility, tasks flow down hill, especially to those whose kuleana is not well known or understood by the assigners. Hakalau Forest’s successes to date had been, in no small part been due to volunteer planters— but someone needed to be responsible for these volunteers. Because the volunteers were primarily to “plant”, the “plant guy” seemed the natural choice, so Baron’s work week was changed to Friday through Monday to accommodate the volunteers. Weekend after weekend for years on end, Baron found himself spending his weekends with the volunteers on the mountain at 6,000 ft elevation, at least an hour’s 4-wheel drive from Hilo and hours away from his family’s weekend activities.
Over the years as Baron solved more and more of the unique native plants’ propagation mysteries and their relationship to other native plants in this forest, planting patterns were changed to adapt accordingly. The old pastures, became corridors of native forest, aka critical bird habitat, no longer exclusively koa corridors, up Mauna Kea’s slopes.
When the toll on his health started to be suspected, the then Refuge Manager asked him to decrease the number of volunteer weekends from the then acknowledged 40. (That’s right 40 weekends a year - “10” hour days Friday-Monday each week plus scheduling volunteers on his days off which left no time for comp time…) Baron, out did the request by limiting the number of volunteer weekends to 44 hotly contested spots, fought over by volunteers all over the state and even the mainland. (He never has learned to say “No can do” to his volunteers.)
As part of the refuge’s early outreach efforts, Baron was dispatched to Honoka’a for a student career day presentation, but waiting for him were angry pig hunters who distrusted the new Federal presence in areas where they had been able to hunt. They thought that the Feds intended to kapu the pua’a for themselves. Baron’s Hilo up-bringing enabled him to talk story with the hunters. He invited them to walk with him through the Refuge as he explained what the refuge was attempting, saving this unique Hawaiian resource and the birds that inhabited it. Over time trust built and the hunters even joined Refuge Staff on a pig sweep of the Maulua Unit of the Refuge - tossing the pigs out of the Maulua Unit into the adjacent Piha public hunting area in the state forest reserve.
If you have been to the Refuge Greenhouse, perhaps you have noticed the “Laulima” sign over head as you enter. It was a special gift to honor the National Wildlife Refuge Centential Celebration from the Hilo Community College Forest Team which regularly volunteered at Hakalau. Leila Kealoha, the team’s leader, surprised him with it. (Did you know that this is half of a kamani log? The other half is at Hilo Community College.) There is a map of the Big Isle on the sign with a puka where you’d expect the Refuge to be. The Forest Team wanted to fill it with koa, but Baron counseled that the Refuge was to propagate koa, not farm it. And "Laulima" was chosen with care “Many Hands working together”— you did notice the Hand imprints on the sign? Special kudos to those of you who know whose hands are thus imprinted!
Among his many tasks in the early years was to assist refuge staff in administering the Open Houses (Pre-ROD, Pre-TMT, Pre-COVID). A painstaking job when you are one of the staff but the only one working on weekends. Then at the first open house and for years afterwards, the HCC Forest Team alums showed up, with out his prior knowledge, and pitched in.
Why? Because they were part of Baron’s Ohana. Over the years many others also showed up and pitched in. Refuge meet the Community! Community Meet the Refuge! Parents showed up and were led around by their children who knew and loved the Refuge. You’ve heard of Kids At Risk- these children were delivered to Hakalau Forest as part of their program and taught by Baron how important the native forest at Hakalau is “to make the birds happy”. (These kids also came up with the idea for the laulima sign.) Some day, post ROD and COVID, we may again all meet at a Refuge Open House.
Volunteers over the years came in many sizes, shapes and backgrounds from all over the state and even the mainland. One of the groups that came every year was The Wilderness Women from the mainland who said that volunteering at Hakalau was their favorite volunteer activity of the many that they were involved with all over the US. One local volunteer from a different volunteer group was even found playing the violin for the greenhouse plants in the early morning to make them happy

Baron also started a plant “your own personal tree” as part of the volunteer trips so the volunteers could return and admire “their” tree. These trees were in larger pots and older so they could survive the frost in the upper part of the refuge above the admin building, serving the dual purpose of beautifying the drive into the refuge and giving volunteers a “growing” connection to Hakalau.

Generations of us have joined the plantings and experienced the shared bonding and love, yes love, for the native forest, birds and Hakalau Forest’s own inseparable Baron Horiuchi.
This love is a two way street for Baron, he wouldn’t, no, couldn’t have done it without the shared energy, interpersonal relationships and proud joint ownership of what they together had accomplished. Baron’s reward has not been those awards heaped his way from afar and above, but rather the opportunity to give back to the aina with those, who like him, give back to Hakalau AND each other, always with Baron as the heart of Hakalau.
Baron retires December 31, 2021. We have had a unique quarter century opportunity together, Baron, Hakalau Forest and his cadre of volunteers- Keiki o ka aina, one and all— a righteous bunch if you have ever seen one.
Mahalo nui loa to the collaborative effort started so many years ago by Dick, Jack, Jim and Baron, sowing the “seeds” of the know how and know what and know when to accomplish this transformation allowing our native birds to migrate with the seasons and the accompanying bloom and fruiting. As a result, today Hakalau Forest is the only place where the native Hawaiian birds have stabilized and may be even expanding .
Aloha Pumehana Baron,

The Editorial Staff

Photo Credits - Jaime Tanino, Dick Wass, Rob Schallenberger, Pauline Kawamata, Ken Kupchak
Presidents' Perch Summer 2021

J.B. Friday

President, Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge
The territorial foresters of the early 20th century set out to protect Hawaii’s watersheds by planting trees. Contrary to popular opinion, they did plant hundreds of thousands of native trees, including over a million koa. Almost none of these koa can be found today, though, having been destroyed by cattle, wildfires, weeds, or even frost. The foresters then turned to hardier species such as eucalyptus, silk oak, and ironwood.

When the Refuge established at Hakalau the mangers knew that the first order of business was to get rid of the remaining cattle and fence the Refuge off from the wild cattle still on the mountain. Only then could the real business of reforesting begin. Refuge Manager Dick Wass hired Baron Horiuchi, a new horticulture graduate from UH Hilo, and the rest is history. Under Baron’s leadership, the Refuge nursery produced hundreds of thousands of koa seedlings and later thousands of other seedlings of other tree and plants important for the birds on the refuge: ‘ōhia, ‘ōlapa, ‘ākala, and many others. Baron not only grew the trees everyone already knew how to grow; he also figured out how to grow many rare and endangered plants such as the Clermontia lindseyana and Cyanea shipmanii. Today Hakalau is the largest native reforestation project in Hawai‘i. The job would not have been done, though, without the hundreds of volunteers who outplanted all the seedlings. It turned out that Baron not only had a green thumb, he had a way with people and has mentored hundreds in his more than 25 years at the Refuge. We wish him a happy retirement and happiness in his legacy of a thriving forest at Hakalau.  

Forest Bird Surveys Are Complete!

The 2021 Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, forest bird surveys at both Hakalau and the Kona Forest Unit have been completed! The forest bird surveys were not done last year due to the start of the pandemic. It was a challenge to complete the survey this year with Covid-19 restrictions and protocols in place but we were able to get it done with help from our awesome partners from the Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project, University of Hawaiʻi, Natural Area Reserve Systems (Native Ecosystems Protection and Management), Inventory and Monitoring Program, National Park Service, and dedicated volunteers. The effort was coordinated by Eldridge Naboa (acting Wildlife Refuge Biologist) and Steve Kendall (volunteer and retired Wildlife Refuge Biologist), with the support of Tom Cady (Refuge Manager) and Donna Ball (Deputy Refuge Manager).

For the past four weeks, staff awoke between 4:00-5:00am to get ready for the survey and drive to their assigned transects. At around 6:20am, the survey would begin with taking note on the cloud cover, rain, wind, and gust. ʻŌhiʻa phenology and a rapid assessment of vegetation cover was also taken. The forest bird survey was done using the variable circular plot method. This procedure involves estimating the horizontal distance from a survey station to the birds encountered during an eight-minute sampling period. 
Survey packets- Covid 19 safety and survey plan, transect maps, survey books, flagging for transects, batteries for GPS units, and pencils.
Cyanea shipmanii (hāhā) in the Maulua Unit of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge taken during forest bird surveys. 

The Hakalau surveys were conducted between March 15 through April 2. The native forest birds encountered during the Hakalau survey were: the endangered ʻAkiapōlāʻau, the endangered Hawaiʻi ʻakepa, the endangered ʻalawī, the threatened ʻiʻiwi, ʻapapane, Hawaiʻi ʻamakihi , Hawaiʻi ʻelepaio, ʻōmaʻo, and ʻio. Some of the nonnative birds encountered were: Red-billed leiothrix, Japanese white-eye, Northern cardinal, Kalij pheasant, Erckel’s francolin, Japanese bush-warbler, and wild turkey.

Steve Kendall and Rachel Rounds (Inventory and Monitoring Program) spot a Hawaiʻi ʻamakihi in the ʻōhiʻa tree; note social distancing and mask wearing protocols in place.

The Kona Forest Unit surveys were conducted from April 5 through April 8. The native forest birds encountered during survey were: ʻiʻiwi, ʻapapane, Hawaiʻi ʻamakihi, Hawaiʻi ʻelepaio, and ʻio. Some of the nonnative birds encountered were: Red-billed leiothrix, Japanese white-eye, Northern cardinal, Kalij pheasant, Japanese bush-warbler, and wild turkey.
We would like to sincerely say mahalo nui loa to all of our partners and volunteers for their kōkua on this year’s forest bird surveys!
Steve Kendall, Rachel Rounds, Seth Judge and Ashley Romero both from the National Park Service pose for a group photo after surveying the Kona Forest Unit.
Aloha kākou (aloha everyone)!

My name is Eldridge Naboa and I am currently on detail at the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge serving as the Refuge Biologist. I have been working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the past four years as a Fish and Wildlife Biologist on the Hawaiʻi Island and Maui Nui team, based in Hilo. I was born and raised in Nāʻālehu, Kaʻū and graduated from Kaʻū High School in 1996. I attended the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Zoology.

I have worked in the field of conservation biology for almost 20 years which has strengthened my existing passion and commitment for our native Hawaiian forests and the many beautiful native Hawaiian forest birds that call them home. I also have a deep connection with sea turtle conservation as the endangered hawksbill sea turtles nest along the southeast shores of Hawaiʻi Island where I currently reside. Additionally, I love outreach and education and I’m always looking to create opportunities with our local schools and communities. The importance of sharing our work with the next generation of ʻāina (land) stewards can’t be understated. Encouraging and nurturing their interest in the field of conservation is critical so that they may continue to mālama (care) for Hawai’i’s natural and cultural resources.

In my spare time, I enjoy being active: hiking, running, biking, and swimming, and have participated in many race events including the Honolulu Marathon. I also enjoy traveling; the best trip ever was visiting the Okavango Delta in Botswana!

Mahalo (thank you)!

Bidens: Native Plant of the Year
Marcia Stone
Bidens is a worldwide genus with hundreds of species, and Hawaii Island has one of these species all to its own. This endemic plant is called Bidens hawaiensis. Its Hawaiian name is ko’oko’olau, which is a fun word to say, if not to spell.

Ko’oko’olau comes from the sunflower family, which includes our famous silverswords. But unlike those spectacular plants, ko’oko’olau is hardly noticed most of the year. It is an ordinary looking shrub with simple, dark-green, toothed leaves. But when it flowers, you can see it from quite a distance. This bushy plant has multiple bright yellow flowers which stand out in the landscape. The flowers are smallish for sunflowers, just a couple of inches across, but can be very profuse. They come with a dark yellow center and radiating lighter yellow petals.

I saw several of this showy display on New Year’s Day, but it is also known to bloom many months earlier. If you would like to check out ko’oko’olau, you need to look in open shrubland or mesic forests, such as the area you see between Highway 11 and Kipukauaulu (Bird Park) in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. It’s always a good way to start the new year with a cheerful, sunny-looking flower.
Order new t-shirts by visiting our web store. Friends of Hakalau Forest logo t-shirts have been restocked and orders can be mailed to you or to a gift recipient.
Remember to designate Friends of Hakalau Forest as your charity on Amazon Smile.
Amazon will donate 0.5% of your spending to Friends of Hakalau Forest if you use instead of and pick Friends of Hakalau Forest as your charity.
Every Wednesday on HPR listen to Manu Minute created by Patrick Hart, member of the Friends since its inception and a board for member for multiple terms. Click the button to hear the segments that have already been aired.
Click the box to check out cool multi-media educational resources on Hawai`i Forest Birds (including an interview with Jack Jeffrey) from the Center for Global Environmental Education.
Make a Qualified Charitable Distribution to the endowment.

Assuming you are over 70 ½ and must take required minimum distributions (RMD) from your IRA each year, tax law allows you donate all or part of your RMD from your IRA (other than an ongoing SEP or SIMPLE IRA) tax free to a charity. In other words, only the part of the RMD that is not donated will be taxed as income.

Contact the financial company that administers your IRA and ask them to send the donation to:

Hawaii Community Foundation
Hakalau Forest Management Endowment
827 Fort Street Mall
Honolulu, HI 96813
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
   Bret Mossman
   Blaire Langston

Members at large
Charlene Akina
Ken Kupchak
Creighton Litton
George Robertson
Mike Scott  
Rob Shallenberger
Marcia Stone 
Jaime Tanino