Hawai'i conservation alliance

2010 Conservation Innovation Award

Hawai‘i’s Watershed Partnerships

HawpPeter Young, former Chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources and recipient of the 2007 HCA Outstanding Leadership Award, often described the Watershed Partnerships as Hawai‘i’s best kept conservation secret that needed to be told. Watershed Partnerships are voluntary alliances of both public and private landowners committed to the common value of protecting forested watersheds for water recharge, conservation, and other ecosystem services through collaborative management. Spanning six islands, involving over 60 public and private partners, working across 1.6 million acres that encompass the last 40% remaining native habitats found in the state, Hawaii’s Watershed Partnerships are a model like no other with respect to impact, scope, and effectiveness in significantly advancing environmental conservation in Hawai‘i. The key to their success is collaboration and dedicated landowners and other partners who recognize that no one can do the work of watershed management alone. By working together and lead by dedicated coordinators and staff, the Watershed Partnerships pool critical resources and expertise to implement on-the-ground management actions that benefit not only landowners and native habitats/species, but the larger community from farmers, residents, schools and children, Native Hawaiians, ocean-users, local businesses, and many others who rely on the services provided by a healthy functioning watershed.

Most management actions are habitat based and revolve around combating the main threats of feral ungulates, invasive species, and forest pest and disease. Actions, which benefit both mauka and makai, include fencing and ungulate removal, invasive species control, rare plant outplanting and native habitat restoration, and outreach and education. Key successes include:

  • 300,000 acres managed for feral ungulates and destructive invasive species;
  • 90,000 native and endangered plants outplanted for forest restoration and enhancement;
  • Protecting areas that produce over 220 billion gallons of water each year for our islands;
  • 6,000 volunteers engaged in projects, including community members, teachers, and school groups;
  • 40 miles of protective forest fence completed;
  • Shorelines and coral reef areas protected from increased sedimentation and runoff;
  • Millions of dollars brought into the state for conservation work through match and fundraised;
  • Developing the conservation workforce by training, nurturing, and matriculating dedicated and passionate staff, many local, which implement targeted management plans;
  • Advancing the model beyond Hawai‘i with successful Watershed Partnerships established in Palau and explored in Central America.

The reach of these partnerships, both in terms of landscapes and engaging numerous partners state-wide, and the ability to advance significant on-the-ground conservation results are what make Hawai‘i’s Watershed Partnerships the most deserving of this award.