On the island of Hawai‘i, public and private interests are working together to protect and restore more than 1 million acres of Hawaii’s best remaining native ecosystems.
Known as the Three Mountain Alliance, this partnership was formed in 2008 to protect watersheds and natural resources across the slopes of Mauna Loa, Kīlauea and Hualalai volcanoes. The partners collaborate closely across ownership boundaries to achieve landscape-scale protection of native habitat and rare and endangered species, forest restoration, weed control, and to conduct education and outreach.
The Alliance grew out of the ‘Ōla‘a-Kīlauea Partnership, which began in 1994 and encompassed 32,000 acres. Since then, the partnership has expanded greatly and is today the largest cooperative land management effort in the state of Hawai‘i.
The Conservancy, with its preserves in South Kona and Ka‘u, joined the partnership in 2003, and assisted in developing a regional protection strategy for this vast, contiguous landscape.
Major successes over the last ten years include significantly reducing the most threatening invasive plants and animal species over large sections of the partnership area to assist with the recovery of the native Hawaiian forest. These forests provide essential habitat for endangered forest birds,and also support the endangered 'io, nene, Hawaiian bat and many rare and endangered plant species, including the Mauna Loa, or Ka'ū Silversword.
The partnership has also worked on reforestation of former ranch land at Keauhou and has provided on-the-ground educational opportunities for island students and teachers, as well as vocational training for inmates at the State’s Kulani Correctional Facility.
This involvement of the facility and its inmates in conservation work such as fencing and native forest restoration is a unique aspect of the Alliance’s approach. Inmates learn important propagation techniques for cultivating and outplanting native plants to restore the landscape. This work provides inmates with training and education that helps bridge their return from incarceration to society, while providing the partnership with a small, reliable work force helping to protect Hawaii’s unique forest habitats.
In 2009, the Alliance received the “Partners In Conservation Award” — one of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s highest conservation achievement awards. The award was established to honor the contributions of both Interior and non-Interior personnel, and to recognize outstanding conservation results produced primarily because of the engagement of many partners.
Three Mountain Alliance partners include:
Other contributors include the Hawaiian Silversword Foundation and the University of Hawai'i Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit.May 23, 2012