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Restoring Kahoolawe is their top priority, but securing funding is a challenge

Kahoolawe is one of the smaller islands in the chain.
Kahoolawe is one of the smaller islands in the chain.(Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission.)
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 6:21 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2022 at 7:07 PM HST
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KAHOOLAWE (HawaiiNewsNow) - Crews working to revitalize Kahoolawe are facing new challenges.

Resources to restore the former target island were reduced during the pandemic and the island’s stewards say they have fallen behind on their re-planting goals.

They are hoping for more help from the state government.

“Basically, what we’re funded at the leg (legislature) right now keeps this office open … and gives us all of our salaries here at the KIRC but does not really pay for what needs to happen on Kahoolawe,” said Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission Public Information Specialist Maggie Pulver.

For half a century, the island was used by the U.S. military as a bombing range.

Decades ago, $400 million was authorized for ordnance removal, but many unexploded bombs remain. Approximately 25% of the island has not been cleared.

“The beauty of Kahoolawe is that it is this example of someplace that was so devastated and so abused and so taken advantage of in so many ways, that even the little bit of rebirth and revitalization and restoration we see out there happening and possible, makes me really believe that the whole thing is possible,” Pulver said.

Pulver says prior to the pandemic, they could bring in about 30 people a month and had boots on the ground every day out of the year. Now, they can only bring in about 10 people each month and have had to cut field operations down to just 10 days a month.

They are now asking the legislature to not only restore the funding that was lost, but for more money to expand their efforts.

Pulver says without that extra money, progress can be erased by neglect.

“We go to a spot, we can clear it, but we come back in a month and some of the weeds have grown back. You can’t expect that to not be the case. So yeah, when you have a presence out there every day, you definitely have a better chance of keeping things at bay,” she said.

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