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Hawai‘i Community Foundation supports Kula fire restoration with a significant grant

February 26, 2024

Grant from Maui Strong Fund aids Kula’s wildfire recovery

The Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF) has allocated a grant from the Maui Strong Fund to the Kula Community Watershed Alliance (KCWA) for the restoration and stewardship of lands in Kula, Maui, that were devastated by wildfires in August 2023.

The grant aims to bolster the resilience of the affected lands, enhancing their capacity to retain water, reduce erosion, and better resist future fires.

KCWA, a grassroots initiative led by Kula residents, is dedicated to the comprehensive recovery of over 200 acres damaged by the fires.

By bringing together local residents, leaders, and experts, the alliance has formulated a strategic plan focusing on soil stabilization, reforestation, and the protection of native flora and fauna.

The efforts are concentrated on 25 acres of priority land, supported by a $481,800 grant, which will be used for soil stabilization, fencing, reforestation, the establishment of a greenhouse for native seeds, and project management.

Transforming fire-prone landscapes into native forests

The project targets areas previously dominated by the Australian black wattle, an invasive species that exacerbates fire risks.

The goal is to replace these areas with native canopy forests, creating “shaded green breaks” that deter the regrowth of invasive species and reduce wildfire risks.

This approach is preferred in Hawai‘i’s sub-tropical climate over traditional firebreaks.

Sara Tekula, KCWA’s executive director, expressed gratitude for the support from the Maui Strong Fund, emphasizing the importance of the grant in enabling significant restoration efforts.

“This funding enables us to embark on essential, priority soil stabilization and restoration work in our burned areas that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, at a scale we have not been able to achieve thus far,” Tekula stated.

Community involvement and broader recovery efforts

The initiative also includes a community-based native seed propagation program, with eight acres already stabilized.

KCWA actively engages the community through regular meetings and discussions to ensure inclusivity and prioritize projects effectively.

Lauren Nahme, HCF’s senior vice president of Maui recovery effort, highlighted the importance of addressing the needs of all areas affected by the August fires, not just the heavily impacted Lahaina.

“We are proud to support the Kula Community Watershed Association’s work to ensure the long-term health and resilience of Kula’s natural environment and the safety and wellbeing of its communities,” Nahme commented.

In partnership with Nā Koa Manu Conservation Inc., KCWA continues to focus on the conservation of Native Hawaiian bird populations and the restoration of their habitats.

As of February 8, 2024, HCF has distributed over $88 million from its Maui Strong Fund to support various recovery initiatives across Maui, demonstrating the organization’s pivotal role in disaster response and recovery.

FSJA Comment

The recent grant awarded by the Hawai‘i Community Foundation to the Kula Community Watershed Alliance marks a critical step in the recovery and resilience-building efforts following the devastating wildfires in Kula, Maui.

Through this substantial financial support, KCWA is poised to undertake essential restoration work that will not only revitalize the affected lands but also enhance their resilience against future environmental challenges.

The initiative underscores the importance of community involvement in recovery efforts, promoting a collaborative approach to environmental stewardship and disaster preparedness.

As climate-related disasters become more frequent, such partnerships and projects become increasingly crucial for safeguarding communities and ecosystems, demonstrating a proactive approach to climate change adaptation and environmental conservation.

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