The Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM) was honored with the Kona Kohala Chamber of Commerce Pualu Award for Environmental Awareness. This award recognizes organizations that exhibit sensitivity and concern for the environment through innovative environmental practices.
“We were not only impressed with OMKM’s environmental initiatives and actions, but also with its collaboration with the community on volunteer programs and innovative efforts to make substantive changes in behavior by starting to educate young people in elementary schools across the island,” said Kona Kohala Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kirstin Kahaloa.
Helping native species and reducing invasive ones
One example of why OMKM was selected for the Pualu Award was its sensitivity and concern for the wekiu bug. In 1999, the bug was listed as a candidate for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. OMKM launched a full scale effort, including annual surveys and ongoing research to learn more about the bug. As a result of these efforts combined with other OMKM management plans the bug was no longer considered a candidate for federal protection. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cited ongoing monitoring, expanded knowledge of the bug’s habitat range and management plans “precluded the need to list this species.”
OMKM’s volunteer program invites the community to participate in the stewardship of Maunakea by spending a Saturday pulling weeds. Volunteers pull weeds, are given a short natural history tour, followed by lunch and a lecture about Maunakea.
Nearly 1,000 individuals have volunteered during 37 weed pulls culminating in over 7,000 volunteer hours and 1,523 bags of invasive weeds pulled. Community volunteers have also helped with replanting the endangered ahinahina (silversword) in the adjacent Mauna Kea Forest Reserve.
OMKM is doing educational outreach into elementary schools and communities island-wide. OMKM learning stations at educational events include endemic and endangered flora and fauna coloring station, a match the bug with larvae game, put the bug where it belongs on the mountain (similar to pin the tail on the donkey) and a bug box showcasing Maunakea arthropods.
“Ensuring that the rare and often fragile natural resources found within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve are protected will have a profound and positive effect on the community today and for generations to come,” said OMKM Director Stephanie Nagata.