Birder's Guide

AUG 2018

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 17 of 35

16 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | August 2018 Conservation in Hawaii trend related to a changing climate. Unlike the Palila count, which requires volunteers with expert birding skills, the planting required to restore the ma - mane forest can be done by anybody who is willing and has the time. The Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project, part of the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, leads that work, with major support from the American Bird Conservancy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. The Laura Jane Musser Fund Environmental Initiative Program and the Dorrance Family Foundation have also been major con - tributors to Palila conservation. Kal a - Asing, Mauna Kea Forest Restora- tion Coordinator, oversees the project. The forest crew has a lot of ground to cover: there are two major restoration areas—a 1,400-acre (567-hectare) former ranch on the west slope of the mountain that is des- ignated Palila Critical Habitat and some 5,140 acres (2,080 hectares) on the north slope—and the 15,914 acres (6,440 hect- ares) of core Palila breeding habitat. Asing's team and volunteers plant the same mix of native trees and shrubs, in- cluding ma - mane, koa, 'iliahi, and 'a'ali'i, in both units. "We rely on volunteers for a lot of our restoration work," Asing said. "We don't have a big staff, so we wouldn't have been able to put as many trees in the ground with staff alone." It takes time to reverse the damage done by decades of ecological abuse in - flicted by non-native sheep, cattle, goats, and pigs. "What used to be dry alpine for- est is now just grassy savannah," Asing said. Restoring the forest means "starting from step one". He estimates that about 40% of one focus area, called Ka'ohe, has been restored, along with about 20% of another area, Pu'u Mali. But the labor, though far from com - plete, is paying off. "The mountain is look- ing awesome," Asing said. "The ma - mane forest is really filling in on the upper el- evations." Hunting and Volunteering Birds and people use the forest for dif- ferent purposes. Mauna Kea's introduced sheep and mouflon became popular game animals, and some members of the tradi- tional hunting community did not sup- port attempts to remove them from the landscape. It took a long series of court battles to have critical Palila habitat pro - tected and to begin removing the non- native ungulates. But as time has passed and more resi- dents have seen the benefits of the forest work and have pitched in to help, those hard feelings appear to have softened somewhat. "I can have adult conversa- tions with people who have opposing views," Asing said. n The grand opening of the Palila Forest Discovery Trail in 2016. Photo © Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources n Volunteers constructing the Palila Forest Discovery Trail on the western slope of Mauna Kea. Photo © Jackson Bauer/MKFRP

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