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Event presents an opportunity to learn about mauka projects focused on reef recovery makai

By Staff | Jul 7, 2016

Contractor Paul Sturm of Ridges to Reefs explores potential project sites in Wahikuli with local native plant expert Duane Sparkman and partners to determine where vetiver may be a good tool for soil stabilization. PHOTO BY EKOLU LINDSEY.

KAANAPALI – In 2010, a small gathering was held in North Kaanapali centered around celebrating the anniversary of the establishment of the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area (KHFMA). It featured community members and volunteers who helped establish the area through citizen science and advocacy.

Six years later, the event has grown into the Ridge to Reef Rendezvous, which aims to enlist, engage and inspire Maui residents to become more informed and involved in mauka to makai stewardship activities in West Maui.

This community event will be held at Kahekili Beach Park (Old Airport Beach in Kaanapali) on Saturday, July 23, from 9 a.m. to noon.

The event’s purpose and goals have broadened through the years, but the challenge remains in sharing many of the critically important – but often unseen – conservation initiatives currently underway mauka in West Maui.

In recognition of the impact of land-based sources of pollution upon the health of Maui’s coral reefs and fisheries, five West Maui watersheds were designated federal and state priorities for restoration, and the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative was established in 2012 to oversee these efforts and marshal resources in support. The Ridge to Reef Rendezvous serves as a platform for partners to share their efforts in the region and convey important messages through a fun event for all ages.

According to West Maui Watershed and Coastal Management Coordinator Tova Callender, “It is not always very visible to the public, but we have an amazing number of smart and passionate people from all across the country leveraging their expertise and positions to try to improve the health of our coastal waters and coral reefs in West Maui.

“There has been broad recognition that we have to work across jurisdictions if we are going to improve the health of our oceans. There are teams conducting key studies to help with our understanding of the connections between systems, others working on the planning for watershed management and those trying to determine the role of a changing climate in West Maui, and how we can include projects that build resilience against these changes. So while we may be at the beach for our annual event, we’re really focused on what’s happening mauka, how it is connected and what still needs to happen to improve reef health.”

Examples of projects underway include piloting the use of a plant called vetiver, cultivated for its strong, deep roots, for soil stabilization in the agricultural zone; encouraging more conscientious management of coastal landscaping through the Ocean Friendly Landscaping project; collecting and storing native seeds for soil stabilization after wildfires; and a research project in urban areas to determine nutrient inputs from these sites, so researchers can better determine which problems to prioritize.

All pollution reduction and research projects are funded with competitive grants, so as funds are secured, partners of the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative will work from the long list of priority actions recommended in the watershed management plan aimed at reducing the amount of sediment, nutrients and other contaminants harming our coastal ecosystems.

As a way of including the rest of the community in less technical, yet meaningful, conservation efforts, the West Maui Kumuwai campaign was created to focus on the many actions that individuals can take to protect reef health, particularly those who have lawns (it matters how and when we water them, and what we use to manage for weeds and pests), cars (it matters how and where we wash them), and pets (it matters how we deal with their waste). The campaign provides tools and resources to make it easier for people to learn more and take meaningful action, and represents the collective efforts of numerous organizations and agencies dedicated to protecting West Maui’s natural resources.

Many of these actions and messages will be highlighted at the Ridge to Reef Rendezvous, including a sunscreen sustainability station (“Is Your Sunscreen in the Right Zone?”), where participants can check out if their sunscreen is more or less environmentally friendly based on its ingredients (recent research has pointed to the compound oxybenzone, found in many personal care products, as having harmful effects upon reefs).

For more information on the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative, visit www.westmauir2r.com or call Tova at (808) 214-4239; for more on the West Maui Kumuwai campaign, visit the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/WestMauiKumuwai) and the website (www.WestMauiKumuwai.org), or call Liz Foote at (808) 283-1631.