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.
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.