Students Work on Restoring Mount Kaala

MOUNT KAALA (KHNL) -- At 4,025 feet, Mount Kaala is the tallest mountain on Oahu. It's also home to native Hawaiian plants that need to be protected.

The view from the top of Mount Kaala is spectacular. But on the surface, invasive weeds are depleting native Hawaiian plants. 12th graders from Anuenue Hawaiian Immersion School are hard at work to restore this sacred area.

"It's my duty as a Hawaiian to give back and take care of the land. Because the land is the alii and we are the service to it," said Anuenue student Kila Koanui-Kong.

Weeds called junkis, and other invasive plants aren't the only problem. Goats have destroyed the area by uprooting many of the native plants. And pigs have also done their fair share of damage.

"There's a native tree fern Hapuu and the pigs love to eat the Happu trunks and so this is a real problem," said Candance Russo with the Oahu Army Natural Resources.

Students and teachers get down and dirty but for them, it's a chance to connect with one of Oahu's native forests.

"I feel really lucky to have this experience and to see the natural beauties of Kaala, some people never get to see it," said Koanui-Kong.

The focus is clearing area of weeds.

"Once those weed are removed, it allows us to come back again with volunteers or staff planting natives into that same area," said Kim Welch, an environmental outreach specialist.

Over the past seven months, members form the Oahu Army Natural Resource Program also been working to restore the land.

"I anticipate we'll have to return several more times just until we overcome that seed bank that's in the soil," said Russo.

Students, teachers and volunteers helping this fragile environment at the highest point Oahu continue to flourish.