The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce recently honored the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship (CMS) with its 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. CMS was commended for its innovative efforts in native plant restoration and invasive species management.

“We are moved by this acknowledgment which helps shine a spotlight on our dedicated CMS staff members who pour their hearts into stewarding these precious lands,” said Nahua Guilloz, director of stewardship at CMS. “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.”

This is the third Pūalu award UH Hilo has received for its stewardship of Maunakea. In 2016, UH was recognized 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.

Launched in 2019, the CMS native plant restoration project located around the Visitor Information Station at the 9,000 foot elevation on Maunakea, focuses on enhancing the area’s ecosystem with native plants that are both rare and common providing a habitat refuge for native birds and as climate change accelerates, help to slow erosion and the decline of valuable plants and animals.

As of November 2021, propagated native plant counts include: 495 māmane; 120 ʻāweoweo; 1,295 ʻenaʻena; 17 pāwale and 782 native grasses. Hundreds of native māmane also sprouted on their own. The endemic tree with yellow pea-shaped flowers once thrived in forests from mauka to makai, it is currently limited to sub-alpine environments on Maunakea and Maunaloa.

Invasive species management

Eradicating invasive species and weeds helps to reduce habitat for invasive ants on Maunakea, and prevents unwanted invasive species from being transported to the upper elevation areas. Since 2012, the Mālama Maunakea campaign connects community volunteers to help in resource management and stewardship of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve and mid-level support facilities at Halepōhaku. Since its inception, more than 8,600 pounds of invasive weeds have been removed from CMS’ restoration area.

In closing, the staff and volunteers at the Center for Maunakea Stewardship would like to take this opportunity to thank the Directors and Members of the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce for your support over the years and especially this year.