Marine Corps "Mud Ops" Help Save The Hawaiian Stilt - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Marine Corps "Mud Ops" Help Save The Hawaiian Stilt

Gunnery Sgt. John Duncan Gunnery Sgt. John Duncan
The Hawaiian stilt nests at Nu'upia ponds on Marine Corps Base Hawaii The Hawaiian stilt nests at Nu'upia ponds on Marine Corps Base Hawaii

By Mary Simms

KANEOHE BAY (KHNL ) - Amphibious assault crewmen at Marine Corp Base Hawaii assault the wetlands of Nu'upia Ponds. The Marines, and their assault vehicles, help an endangered Hawaiian bird make a comeback.

The marines call it mud "ops." Their mission? To make mud.

Combat training and conservation are sometimes at odds with one another, but during "mud ops" they go hand in hand.

"We create humps of mud and the birds will nest right on that mud mound surrounded by water, like little castles, said Dr. Diane Drigot, a natural resources manager at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

During mud ops, marines use the tracks on their amphibious assault vehicles to purposely destroy the invasive pickle weed.

"The grass-like pickle weed that grows all over the mud flats literally crowds the birds out of house and home, said Dr. Drigot. And if we don't go in there every year like a farmer plowing his fields, the vegetation will overtake the habitat and no birds can be served at all.

Marines are only allowed to bring these vehicles into the Nu'upia Ponds area once a year. Ironically, environmentalists are usually opposed to using vehicles like this operating in fragile areas.

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