Fencing issue to protect East Molokai watershed has two sides

| November 6, 2013 | 13 Comments

The East Molokai Watershed Partnership, formed in 1999, shows the current, proposed and priority protection watershed areas.

The East Molokai Watershed Partnership, formed in 1999, shows the current, proposed and priority protection watershed areas.


By Hanohano and Maile Naehu

We all want to protect the East Molokai watershed and everyone wants to know, fence or no fence?

To everyone at the Sept. 20 Mana’e moku meeting of Aha Ki’ole O Molokai it was unanimous that something needs to be done. As the two new representatives of the Mana’e Moku, we asked the residents at the Kilohana Recreation Center, “Do we all agree that our watersheds need to be saved?” All hands were raised.

Now we must face the questions of how it will be done and who will do it. These are the major concerns for our community.

Hawaiian style is to think seven generations ahead. Our actions today will affect our kids tomorrow, so the sacrifices and decisions today will be our children’s inheritance. All decisions must be made with the thought, “Let’s leave them with something.”

One proposal is to put up a fence that would begin at Pakui, above Ka’amola, extending to Halawa and back. The lowest point is at 2,600 feet. The areas were mapped out with consideration of the watershed areas that were hunting areas and still reparable.

This proposal is scheduled to begin by 2014. The permanency and success of this effort will rely on continual funding and community involvement. The plan is to keep a majority of — if not all — the work associated with this project for Molokai residents.

The benefits of fencing

Plants are a major concern in protecting our watershed. The watershed is made up of native plants densely populating an area high upon the mountaintops. The fence would put a barrier in which the animals will not be able to go into the watershed. While the fence is up, minimal invasive plants would be able to hitchhike on an animal and germinate where it’s not supposed to. It would provide relief for native plants and a time to reestablish themselves throughout the watershed. Without the native forest we will not be able to collect enough water for our island’s future.

In old Hawaii there was not much wild game roaming our mountains. The ahupua’a land management system allowed Hawaiians to gather things they would need to survive in their ahupua’a. Cattle, deer, wild pig and goats were all introduced species to this place and not managing them correctly has led to large-scale damage and depletion of a sustainable environment.

Headwaters of Kahawai'iki Stream in Halawa.

Headwaters of Kahawai’iki Stream in Halawa.


The fence is intended to keep all hooved animals below the fence and out of the watershed. The fence limits access of these animals to native forests and plants and allows them space and time to re-establish themselves in their native setting. There is a large number of animals that live below the watershed line, so there is no need to be going that high or that far for meat. The animals should be kept out of the watershed and the fence is the answer.

In the ahupua’a system, the watershed was referred to as the Wao Akua, or the realm of the gods. There was little to no human presence in this area. This was a place for the biggest trees, ferns, birds, clouds and rain. The Wao Akua gives our island the ability to draw water from the clouds and atmosphere. Nature needs a chance to recover from all of our human abuse and bad decisions of resource management.

If we put up a fence that protects this area and sacrifice some hard work to replenish, we will surely reap the benefits from a healthy watershed, primarily the blessing of lots of drinking water. This fence is not intended to keep anybody that needs to go out, or anyone that knows what they are doing from doing what they have to. It is meant to protect the place that catches life’s most important resource for us to have.

Several years ago, The Nature Conservancy began a similar fencing project above the Kawela area. We were able to view it from helicopter, courtesy of TNC, and saw the drastic decline of vegetation below the fenceline and lush regrowth above it. The TNC is learning what works and doesn’t work and that will surely be foundational for planning how Mana’e will maintain this.

Mana’e hopes to use ‘Ahupua’a practices to restore our island from mountain to sea. The restoration of our watersheds alone will not be enough. We must become stewards of our land, create jobs that do this, educate community members on permaculture and its link to ‘ahupua’a maintenance and restoration. We can not rely only on agencies and government assistance when it comes to our ‘aina. The bottom line is that we need to take the lead. This watershed project will be the catalyst of a new Mana’e.

We must remember that the land is more important than our egos and rights. We must remember that water is the key to survival. We must remember to think seven generations ahead. We must remember to be good land stewards. I believe the fence is highly beneficial for my island’s watershed and its future.

No need for fencing

Nature has a way of continuing on even without the obstruction of a fence line. Plants are the fastest to adapt and evolve, so our forest will always find a way to replenish itself. A fence isn’t necessary because it looks ugly. Putting up a fence on our mountain gives the natural landscape a sense of imprisonment. Who are we locking out? Who are we locking in?

Instead, we could have teams of people to pull out invasive plants. The people will be able to keep all the invasive plants under control. No fence is needed to keep our watershed healthy.

Animals have the right to go wherever they want and we have the right to hunt animals wherever they go. Subsistence is a way of life on our island, and I hunt to feed my family. Again, with access there is no need for a fence.

Teams of hunters could hunt the watershed and attain a balance of healthy watershed and hunting area. Animals need a way to get from the south shore to the north shore and a fence would not allow this to happen. Molokai has a ton of hunters and they could all be used to help keep the hooved animals under control. With dedicated community participation there is no need for a fence to control the animals.

So many of our Hawaiian rights have been taken away that it feels as if a fence is also taking some rights. For years we have had to remind large landowners, politicians, and The Nature Conservancy that this is our island and we know how to care for it best. If we maintained stewardship of our place it wouldn’t be in this predicament. I do not want any more of my rights as a Hawaiian taken away. In my ahupua’a I have the right, by law, to go wherever I want, whenever I want and by whichever means I choose to do so. I am a Hawaiian and this is how I take care of my family.

“He ali’i ka ‘aina he kauwa ke kanaka” — The land is the chief and we humans are the servants (‘olelo no’eau). We must keep this in mind because if we do not take care of the most important resources on our island our future here is doomed.

A lot of Hawaiians run around with the idea that we have rights but very few realize that these rights come with huge responsibilities. We have gotten so accustomed to taking resources and never giving back. We run around with this sense of entitlement and belief that because we are Hawaiian we can do whatever we want, wherever we want, and that is not true.

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Category: Hawaiian Culture, News, opinion, Sustainability

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  1. sam monet says:

    fencing will actually make hunting easier as the hoofed animals will not be able to escape into the lush forest. too many people trampling the forest is not good either.

    lets remember the KAPU, it had many components, one was environmental protection, no taking of certain fish and other life forms during certain times giving non human life a chance to come back. So much for the notion that animals and people have the “right” to go anywhere and do anything. Violate the Kapu was usually death met out by the Konahiki very quickly.

    At the Wailea Bay Marine Sanctuary on the Big Island, over opposition by many fellow Hawaiians who insisted that they could go and do anything they wanted to we found that fish populations increased, migrated out of the bay and gave locals more fish.

    sm

  2. molokainews says:

    OK Harry, I read up. Agenda 21 is a non-binding, voluntary United Nations action from 1992 intended to promote sustainable development. Protecting the upper forest from invasive species is NOT an attempt to take away property rights. The fencing project has been initiated by residents of Molokai (not the government) and is not connected to Agenda 21 recommendations.

    • Harry Aki says:

      Once that fence go up every animal in pen going to be removed killed. Better hope their rules are not going to effect people who drawing water from river because there is no county water line around can serve many molokai people on east side of Island which a straw add river to serve them. If it not effect Molokai hunters to feed there ohana and not effect Molokai people drawing free water for them to cook and shower then should show the people law and rules for this plans.

      • molokainews says:

        This plan has no effect on water rights. No water will be diverted and nobody’s rights are being taken away. It is simply a plan to help preserve the watershed so the island can better absorb large quantities of fresh water into the aquifer. If you have a different, better, plan to save the watershed please share.

  3. sam monet says:

    what a great article: important facts

    The restoration of our watersheds alone will not be enough. We must become stewards of our land, create jobs that do this, educate community members on permaculture and its link to ‘ahupua’a maintenance and restoration. We can not rely only on agencies and government assistance when it comes to our ‘aina. The bottom line is that we need to take the lead. This watershed project will be the catalyst of a new Mana’e.

    A lot of Hawaiians run around with the idea that we have rights but very few realize that these rights come with huge responsibilities. We have gotten so accustomed to taking resources and never giving back. We run around with this sense of entitlement and belief that because we are Hawaiian we can do whatever we want, wherever we want, and that is not true.

    KAPU is best, no konahiki, use a fence. Fence will not keep people out, just foreign animals.

    • steve says:

      sam,

      mahalos for noticing that line (paragraph) regarding “rights” and “responsiblities”.

      i mentioned it in the comment section of another story, but no one riffed on it.

      btw- good to see new ‘faces’ commenting on themolokainews.

  4. Keoni Wilhelm says:

    Aloha kākou,

    I am a novice hunter, gun owner, and a teacher of Hawaiian language and culture. I do not claim to be an expert on hunting but I see a need for the preservation of this way of life. According to the Hunters education class I took, hunters are taxed on every bullet, gun, arrow, and product related to hunting. Proceeds from those taxes are used to help protect the environment and maintain game trails, public hunting areas, and facilities. People on Moloka’i depend on these game for subsistence purposes and for some of them has become a way of life especially for some of students I teach. I also appreciate the fact that hunting is a family activity that they can do together with their makua and kupuna. There is a way of life here that needs to be protected. That being said,

    Molokai has one watershed for the entire island. ONE. Over the past 10 years I have seen the island deteriorate due to erosion caused by hoofed animals. If left unchecked, the forest will disappear and with it, the ability to sustain life. Meaning, water for people and hoofed animals will dry up, the wells will turn salty and the island will die. You can see the damage hoofed animals have done in places like Kaho’olawe or Lāna’i. Preservation of Moloka’i’s only watershed is essential if people want to continue to live there. Hunting in those areas of Native forest in the high elevation also tracks invasive species via the mud on the hunters shoes or clothing which carries seeds into the wao akua allowing alien species to be established. These plants if you have worked on any eradication project are not simply pulled out of the ground. They grow quickly, have deep roots and require maintenance of the area to ensure they do not come back.

    As I was taught growing up in a fishing family, my father lamented that society as a whole are programed to take take take from the resource but we are never taught to give back. My father used to say that if there was fish in the freezer that we took to much. If there were no fish while diving our father made us dive for cans and plastic until the area was clean again. It was not my ‘opala, I never put it there. But as a fisherman who depended on the resource if we did not mālama the kai. There would be no fish to eat. I draw this comparison because I feel what happens in the forest affects what happens in the sea. This is why I am even sharing my mana’o. Everyone can understand that the water in the kahawai must touch the ocean so that the keiki can spawn. Stream flow affects the amount of fish we have. Stream flow depends on the health of the watershed. No brainer. It is system that depends on other ecosystems. That is why the hunter shares his deer meat with the fisherman. That is why the fisherman shares his fish with the hunter. The mahi’ai needs stream flow to feed his lo’i so he can share his poi with everybody. Everyone shares and thats what subsistence is all about. Thats why Moloka’i is special. Mālama kekahi i kekahi. Ecosystems include people too.

    The government can do a way better job bridging the gap between the environmental interests of the watershed and the subsistence interests of the hunter. If you think about it they both have a role to play. Hoofed animals need to be controlled, families need to live, streams need to live, and we all need to come to the center to mālama. Its not about the individual. Its about the unborn generations that must continue to exist. I would also say perhaps the fence can have gates which can be opened and closed to keep hoofed animals out similar to the fence that has been put in place on O’ahu to protect Ka’ena point. Its a rodent proof fence that closes behind the person as they enter the reserve. Hunters can hunt and perhaps bounties can be paid to hunters who kill hoofed animals within the watershed. They do it everywhere else where hoofed animals threaten the environment. In Florida they have bounties and organized hunts for large Boa snakes who destroy Native ecosystems. During the organized hunt information can be shared with hunters on how they can do their part to keep invasives out and to learn more about the watershed. For example, there is lā’au in the watershed. Not that lā’au . 🙂 Medicine from Native plants. You know what I mean. Hula dancers have an interest for gathering of their plants and kinolau for hula or ceremony. They need the forest too. Everyone does.

    I am down to help with the fence and I am also down to help eradicate deer to be shared with families. I do not know how much help I would be. I am still learning. 🙂 I am from O’ahu and for many of you that is a bad word. I am ashamed myself when I see how people from our island behave. However, that is not me and I always make sure I have my round trip ticket. Eō ! 🙂 Rest assured I remember the aloha and care I received from the families that I stay with on Moloka’I. You now who you are. I always do my best to ensure that your keiki are safe when they go to school here. That is how I honor and respect you, your home, and your family. Fences can be pilau, but we can make them so that the good comes in and the bad stays out if done right and with respect to all involved.

    Me ke aloha,

    Kumu Wilhelm

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