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Volunteers malama native forest near wind farm

By Staff | Oct 21, 2010

Maui Cultural Lands Inc. is dedicated to weeding, reseeding and restoring the unique habitat in the forests surrounding the First Wind Kaheawa wind farm. Photo by Louise Rockett.

WEST MAUI — Aunty Puanani Lindsey shares a pule/oli (prayer/chant) for the Earth with those joining her on weekly volunteer service trips to malama (care for) Honokowai Valley or Hanaula.

Her prayer in Hawaiian is: E ulu mau ka lewa, E ulu mau ka honua, E ho’opulu ka ua i ka ‘aina, E ulu mau ka wao kele, A laila mohala a’e ka pua, Ho’ola hou ke kanaka.

Translated, it means: Let the heavens live, Let the Earth live, Let the rain dampen the Earth, Let the forest grow, Then the flower (child) will flourish, And man will continue to live.

Lindsey is the widow of Edwin “Ed” Lindsey Jr. (1939-2009), steadfast community leader and founder of Maui Cultural Lands Inc. (MCL).

MCL is a grassroots land trust established in 2002 with a mission to stabilize, protect and restore Hawaiian cultural resources and to reinstate balance through education and preservation.

Aunty Puanani Lindsey and her son, Edward “Ekolu” Lindsey III, are serious in their quest to eradicate the fire weed, an invasive species that threatens the health of native growth. Photo by Louise Rockett.

Puanani is committed to the non-profit’s vision. This is her kuleana; she is reverent and dedicated.

On Saturdays, in her four-wheel drive vehicle, she treks up the Kaanapali mountainside and down into Honokowai Valley, leading residents, visitors and groups on guided working adventures of the “breadbasket of Keka’a.”

On Sundays, Puanani focuses her energy on Project Malama Kaheawa-Hanaula in the West Maui Mountains above McGregor Point, where the First Wind Kaheawa 30 megawatt wind farm is located.

Her son, Edward “Ekolu” Lindsey III, president of MCL, accompanies his mother on these weekend excursions.

Earlier this month, the Lahaina News joined the Lindsey ‘ohana and 14 Hana middle school students enrolled in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Program 3,000 feet above Maalaea to help weed, seed and replant the forests adjacent to the top three turbines.

The location of the 20-turbine facility stretches along a dry ridge from 1,900 to 3,000 feet, where the olau koa (strong wind) blows and the kili hau (rains) mist the forest foliage.

“Kaheawa describes the event of the wind and the rain. The area is called Hanaula,” Ekolu explained.

Ekolu provided an English translation of Hanaula –the one he learned from his kupuna, the late Edward “Ned” Lindsey.

“‘Hanau’ means to give birth and ‘la’ means sun — a place in which the sun gives birth. With that said, there are many other descriptions that pop up, too, as far as growth and life and other things,” he said.

“Books translate it as Hana’ula or red bay. But my grandparents always called the area Hanaula. Hawaiian being a spoken (not written) language, we go with what our kupuna has taught us.”

Kaheawa Pastures, as the area is often called, is situated in the Ahupua’a of Ukumehame in the District of Lahaina.

“We are stewards of the area.” Ekolu commented. “Our family has been going up there since the ’70s. It was occupied by (former Maui Mayor) Elmer Carvalho’s cows, or maybe he leased it to ranchers. But it was always a Hawaiian forest and a place for us to enjoy. We always looked forward to finding the endemic Hawaiian tree snails.”

Ekolu’s father, Ed, supported the First Wind Kaheawa project from the “get-go.”

“Annually, this project saves Maui County 244,000 barrels of oil per year. So the fact that it keeps that much oil off of this island and it’s a clean, renewable resource, my father felt it was a good project to support.”

The nonprofit president explained the reason for their ongoing stewardship: “One of our concerns was to ensure that the plants were put back from whatever they had to dig up… Our goal is to bring a state of balance to Hanaula. Removing invasive species, so the Hawaiian plants can thrive in as close to a pre-contact environment as possible. We call it Malama Hanaula.”

“If you take care of the land, the land will come back and take care of you,” he added.

MCL has an agreement with First Wind to work around the top three turbines.

The adjacent forest growth is dwarfed by the 55-meter high giants and the environment that shapes it.

“The area is subjected to consistent high winds. As such, over the centuries, the plants have adapted to growing small and low to the ground. The area we are cleaning was native habitat. Be careful with ‘native,’ “ Ekolu cautioned. “It indicates plants that were pre-contact or before any human intervention. Not sure of a name for this type of habitat other than Native Hawaiian Habitat under siege by invasive species.”

Ekolu is resolute in their battle to eradicate the alien threat.

“The fire weed is in the top ten invasive species list of Hawaii. They are drought tolerant and flourish with the winter rains. Livestock can’t eat it, because it causes liver damage and even death. Each plant puts out 30,000 seeds per year. This plant will cover hillsides and eventually overrun the Hawaiian rainforest. It changes the chemical composition of the soil, preventing native plants from growing.

“The ironwood tree does the same,” Ekolu continued. “The molasses grass inhibits the Hawaiian plants from flourishing. It chokes them out and grows over them, eventually sucking all the moisture and light from the low growing plants.

“We’ve been working our way down,” Puanani noted. “It’s nice to be able to see the native plants. It used to be covered in molasses grass. We haven’t cleared all of it. There are still patches here and there.

It’s a mountainous quest, but MCL has devout regulars joining them in the clouds on Sundays.

One of them is Mary Anna Waldrop, Sacred Hearts Middle School language arts teacher.

She has trekked up the mountain with the Lindsey ‘ohana on multiple occasions with friends, family and students.

“What inspired me first and foremost is that Ed and Puanani devoted so much of their time and energy to take care of the land — to restore the land that they knew as children,” she explained.

“I want to honor that,” she said matter-of-fact, so she volunteers whenever she has the opportunity.

“I looked to Ed and Puanani and now Ekolu and so many people that want to do something to restore the ‘aina to what it can be — to bring out its best,” she said.

Waldrop considers it important for her students to experience the act of giving back, to malama.

She said, the opportunity “will get the students in touch with who they are… touching the land, growing something, nurturing something, putting a seed in the ground and watching it grow. Taking care of it is hopefully going to help them to nurture their own seeds, watch themselves grow to be the best that they can be.

“The epitome of the best of us,” she recalled in reverie, “comes from that mist that just swirls around and encompasses, embraces us, while we’re up there.

Ekolu appreciates the help.

“We do this work with the support of First Wind. Without their support, we would not be able to do what we do. I thank all the volunteers and supporters who have worked along side of us. Each and every one of them is responsible for our successes today,” he acknowledged.

For more information, or to volunteer, visit the Maui Cultural Lands website at www.mauiculturallands.com.