This February we are proud to support Mauna Kahālāwai Watershed Partnership (MKWP) as our Partner of the Month! Previously known as the West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership, MKWP was established in 1998 as an effort to reduce and reverse the negative impacts of invasive species, humans, and wildfire on the native forests of the West Maui Mountains or Mauna Kahālāwai. “The Partnership’s goal is to protect the native forest that generates most of Maui’s fresh water supply. A healthy, intact native forest is a giant living sponge that will provide a sustainable source of water for our island.” Not only do these forests provide the water we drink, but also they provide a home for plants, animals, and insects found nowhere else in the world! All of the native flora and fauna are intricately intertwined and their harmony ensures the health of our watershed by providing avenues for water to flow through the soil and into our aquifers. One of the biggest threats to the health of these forests is invasive species, like feral ungulates (pigs, sheep, cows, etc), small mammals, strawberry guava, and pampass grass to name a few! The damage done by these invasive species is only worsened by threats caused by human impact, misuse, and climate change.
The work of MKWP is made possible by a hard-working crew of field associates who head out into the mountain every day with their unique knowledge and expertise. They endure the elements (heat, wind, rain!) to monitor the health of our forests and watershed. With 50,000 acres of forest and watershed vegetation to monitor along the slopes of Mauna Kahālāwai, the crew has its work cut out for them! The management priorities for this land include feral animal control, weed control, human activities management, public education and awareness, and water and watershed management. All of this land management is accomplished within a partnership of public and private lands with the common goal of protecting not only the environmental resources within the mountain but the cultural resources as well.
Hawaiian culture is rooted in a close relationship with nature, from the ocean to Hawaii’s native forests. Each native plant and animal played a role in ancient Hawaiian culture! The ancient Hawaiians knew the importance of the watershed to sustain not only themselves but all life within the mountains. In order to protect the upland water systems, ancient Hawaiian’s created the ahupua’a system of land management. An ahupua’a is a wedge-shaped division of the land from mountain to sea, and these land divisions and their Hawaiian names are still recognized today. According to MKWP, “As water flowed from the upland forest, down through the ahupua’a, it passed from the wao akua, the realm of the gods, to the wao kanaka, the realm of man, where it sustained agriculture, aquaculture, and other human uses.” Water was recognized by ancient Hawaiians as a gift from the gods, and everyone took an active role in its use and conservation.
It is easy to take clean water for granted when it seems so easily accessible, yet for an island in the middle of the Pacific, fresh water is a precious resource! We don’t often think of the hard work it takes to keep this resource clean and available to us. That is why we at Skyline Eco-Adventures are so grateful to the work of the Mauna Kahālāwai Watershed Partnership. If you would like to volunteer with the MKWP you can join them on a Stewardship Trip at either Waihee Ridge Trail or Maunalei Arboretum led by the trained MKWP crew members! You can sign up for these through their website. You can also check them out at Kihei 4th Friday!
This February, Skyline Eco-Adventures is proud to support Mauna Kahālāwai Watershed Partnership’s efforts and their work at protecting Maui’s watershed. If you would like to further support them, you can do so by donating when you book a zipline tour with us at zipline.com/maui for our Maui courses, or when booking a Road to Hana or Haleakalā Sunrise tour at skylinehawaii.com. You can also donate directly to the MKWP’s efforts on Maui by going to their website.