Each month we highlight a local charity, community group or nonprofit organization to help raise awareness for their cause. In April 2017, through our Malama Maui give back program, our employees proudly supported the Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve.
The Importance of West Maui’s Watersheds
Watersheds are areas of land – including mountains and valleys – that capture rainwater and other forms of precipitation. This captured water then seeps into the ground or drains into larger bodies of water such as streams, rivers, or oceans. In Hawaii, all watersheds eventually drain into the ocean.
We all live in, and depend on, watersheds. Watersheds are especially important in ensuring that Maui has a continual supply of freshwater. Healthy watersheds with mature vegetation additionally help mitigate flooding by slowing water flow, stabilize soils and limit erosion, support local economies, and provide critical habitat for native plants and animals.
Pu’u Kukui Watershed: A Critical Habitat
West Maui is formed by Mauna Kahalawai (“House of Water”), whose summit Pu‘u Kukui (“Hill of Enlightenment”) receives an average of 386 inches of rainfall each year. The Pu‘u Kukui watershed is responsible for providing fresh water to much of West Maui, and is home to a wide variety of native habitats. Maintaining the integrity of the Pu‘u Kukui watershed is critical to ensuring the health not only of West Maui, but of the entire island.
Before its designation as a preserve, the Pu‘u Kukui Watershed was heavily impacted by agriculture, development, and deforestation. Not only did these activities significantly alter the area’s natural habitats, but also made it easier for invasive species to dominate large parts of the watershed.
Today, invasive plant, bird, and animal species are among the top threats to the health of the watershed. Feral pigs, for example, disrupt the natural soil and ground cover with their foraging and rooting. Once the soil is destabilized, the watershed can experience significant erosion. Not only does this mean less water is retained, but much of eroded soil ends up in the ocean – smothering West Maui’s reefs.
Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve: Protecting the Watershed
Encompassing more than 8,000 acres in West Maui, the Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve stretches from Honokowai and Honokohau Valleys on the north to the summit of Pu‘u Kukui on the South. The Preserve was formed when Maui Land and Pineapple Company designated the area as a management area, and is the largest private nature preserve in the state. Besides the coastlines, much of the watershed is very remote and rugged. Helicopters are often used to access the most remote areas, though some spots are completely inaccessible.
The Preserve is home to 300 native plant species, including native koa and ‘ohi’a trees that help stabilize soil during heavy rains. A number of the Preserve’s plant and animal species are found nowhere else on Earth, and are listed on the federal threatened or endangered species lists.
The Pu ‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve focuses on protecting and restoring the native habitats of the watershed. The Preserve’s team erects fencing to keep out feral pigs, maintains boardwalks throughout the Preserve, removes invasive plant species, and replants native species.
Restoring Pu‘u Kukui’s Native Watershed Habitats
During our service project, our employees assisted in the removal of invasive species, maintaining boardwalks, and replanting native species within the preserve. This work represents a critical part of maintaining the health of the Pu‘u Kukui Watershed.
“Our company values revolve around many things, but at our core is a collective affection for water and the hydrology of the island as a whole,” said HPS guide Andrew Smith.
“Supporting the Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve is necessary in addressing local issues such as non-point source pollution and pesticide runoff, and gathering a deeper understanding of our place within the conservation of Maui’s delicate ecosystems.”
How You Can Help
The Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve has a small but very active team making a sizeable difference for the island of Maui. They rely heavily on the work and support of volunteers, and are always looking for new hands to join in on projects. Here are some ways you can support their work:
- Volunteer – You can specify your area of interest in volunteering, such as field work, office work, beach cleanups, seed collection, or something else.
- Donate – Pu‘u Kukui Watershed accepts donations online or by check. Please make checks payable to: “Friends of Pu‘u Kukui Watershed, Account 0125.” Mail checks to: Friends of Pu‘u Kukui Watershed c/o Tri-Isle, PO Box 338, Kahului, HI 96733
- Become a Corporate or Business Sponsor – Businesses can support the Pu‘u Kukui Watershed in a variety of ways, including volunteer work days and monetary donations.