One of the (many) advantages to living in Maui County is that virtually everyone agrees as to the importance of environmental issues. There are plenty of federal and state agencies dedicated to making sure succeeding generations will still enjoy the land, water and air we have now, and Maui County Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons has spent years making sure all our local issues receive the proper attention at the county level. But much of the real conservation and preservation work going on is being done by community organizations.
Here’s a brief guide to 20 groups out there doing wonderful work for the betterment of Maui. Though they all deal with different issues, they all share something critical: they require your donations and volunteer time to work. So rather than just sign some Facebook petition to save the earth, why not help out a group that’s out there doing it?
Aloha Recycling is a Certified Redemption Center for your HI5 beverage containers. But they’ll also take all your aluminum cans, glass bottles, a variety of paper types and cardboard. They operate five locations across the island in Kihei, Makawao, Haiku and Kahului.
75 Amala Pl., Kahului; 808-871-8544; Aloha-recycling.com
‘AO‘AO O NA LOKO I‘A O MAUI
South Maui residents, alarmed at the deterioration of the big Ko‘ie‘ie Loko I‘a fishpond in Kihei, formed this nonprofit in 1998. There, many centuries ago, “Choice ‘anae (mullet) and ‘awa (milkfish) flourished and grew over three feet long!” according to the organization’s website. Today it’s one of the most accessible fishponds in Maui County, but it still needs a lot of work. In fact, the nonprofit holds regular community work days to continue restoration efforts.
PO Box 1371, Kihei; 808-359-1172; Mauifishpond.com
EAST MAUI WATERSHED PARTNERSHIP
Encompassing about 100,000 acres, the East Maui Watershed produces something like 60 billion gallons of water every year for the island (which is roughly enough water to satisfy nearly 550,000 households for a year). In fact, the Partnership–a group effort of land and habitat preservation between federal, state and local landowners says it’s the “largest single source of surface water in the state of Hawaii.” They seek “to ensure that Maui’s residents have a clean source of water for domestic, commercial and agricultural uses for this and future generations.”
81 Makawao Ave., Suite 205, Pukalani; 808-573-699; Eastmauiwatershed.org
HAWAII NATURE CENTER
Since 1981, the Hawaii Nature Center has administered programs for 15,000 elementary and middle school children each year, “helping to encourage environmental stewardship through hands-on investigative field study and experiences.” Their programs “are primarily conducted outdoors in the field, exposing children to a range of ecosystems in watershed, coastal, marsh and forest environments.”
875 Iao Valley Rd., Wailuku; 808-244-6500; Hawaiinaturecenter.org
HAWAII WILDLIFE FUND
HWF is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to the conservation of Hawaii’s native wildlife through research, education and advocacy,” states their website. It was founded in 1996 by two former National Marine Fisheries Services scientists, Bill Gilmartin and Hannah Bernard–initially to protect Hawaiian monk seals. Since then, they’ve built a team “made up of educators, conservationists, researchers, naturalists, communities, volunteers and donors devoted to the protection of Hawaii’s fragile marine ecosystem and inhabitants.”
PO Box 790637, Paia; 808-280-8124; Wildhawaii.org
HAWAIIAN ISLANDS LAND TRUST
Since 2011, the nonprofit Hawaiian Islands Land Trust has worked “with private landowners, community groups, community leaders and government partners to protect Hawaii’s precious lands” by “integrat[ing] conservation into their land use plans in perpetuity.” As they say, “Proper protection defends against the threat of losing any more precious resources than we already have, while careful stewardship of these protected areas ensures their cultural and conservation values survive in perpetuity.”
2371 Vineyard St., Wailuku; 808-244-5263; Hilt.org
KIHEI COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
For many years now, the KCA has performed invaluable work connecting South Maui residents to a wide variety of issues affecting them. In terms of environmental preservation, the KCA is currently advocating for more water quality studies of the ocean off Kihei (and publicizing those studies currently taking place), hosting speakers on topics like climate change and speaking out on industrial hemp, land use and coral reef health.
P.O. Box 662, Kihei; 508-499-9996*; Gokihei.org
KULA COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
The Kula Community Association’s vision is simple: “preserve open space, support agriculture, maintain a rural residential atmosphere, and to work together as a community. The specific purpose of this association is to improve the quality of life for the residents of Kula, to promote civic welfare and generally to benefit the community of Kula.” They’ve long supported expansion of the Kula Agricultural Park, which is now going to happen, and have been strong voices advocating efforts to combat invasive species.
PO Box 417, Kula; Kulamaui.com
LEEWARD HALEAKALA WATERSHED RESTORATION PARTNERSHIP
We don’t often think of this now, but two centuries ago, the leeward side of Haleakala looked very different than it does now. Then, extensive forests covered the land. Today, after overgrazing and the introduction of invasive species, the forest cover has been reduced to just a tenth of what it once was. But 14 years ago, the restoration partnership formed from 11 private and public landowners and supporting agencies. Their goal is nothing less than “to restore dryland forests on Haleakala from Makawao through ‘Ulupalakua to Kaupo between 3,500 and 6,500 feet elevation.”
3620 Baldwin Ave., # 202/203, Makawao; 808-573-8989; Lhwrp.org
MALAMA MAUI NUI
Once known as Community Work Day, the mission of Malama Maui Nui “is to educate, inspire, and empower individuals and communities to beautify and maintain Maui Nui’s environment, thereby supporting its economy, quality of life, and unique Hawaiian culture. Through litter pickups, marine debris cleanups, invasive species removal, native planting, recycling events, and education programs, MMN brings individual volunteers, local businesses, community organizations, and government agencies together to promote the environmental health of Maui County.”
PO Box 757; Pu‘unene; 808-877-2524; Cwdhawaii.org
MAUI GREEN & BEAUTIFUL
Once known as Maui Outdoor Circle, this organization lobbied to get billboards banned in Hawaii. Today they advocate for a variety of environmental issues. “We defend Maui trees, educate the Maui community on tree care and promote nominations of exceptional trees in Maui County,” states their website. “We support the preservation/conservation of the natural coast of Kanaha Beach Park and the Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary.”
PO Box 402, Kahului; Mauibeautiful.org
MAUI NUI BOTANICAL GARDENS
The Maui Nui Botanical Gardens are a serene slice of nature smack in the middle of Kahului. The place is dedicated to preserving the native plants of Maui. Here’s how they describe what they do: “By collecting, cultivating, and distributing native and Polynesian-introduced plants MNBG provides people with a gathering place to see and understand the important relationship these plants have to our economic, social, and cultural livelihoods.”
150 Kanaloa Ave., Kahului; 808-249-2798; Mnbg.org
MAUI NUI MARINE RESOURCE COUNCIL
Now in its 10th year, the nonprofit organization is all about protecting Maui’s coral reefs. “The formation of the council was guided by the late Edwin ‘Ed Lindsey, a highly respected Native Hawaiian community leader,” states their website. “Today, MNMRC is a broad-based community group that works to bring human actions into balance with ecological and traditional Hawaiian principles.” They do that by sponsoring water quality tests, working with landowners to cut down on runoff pollution, promoting sustainable fishing and implementing their Maui Coral Reef Recovery Plan.
PO Box 331204, Kahului; Mnmrc.org
MAUI RECYCLING GROUP
MRG started in 1989 to, as they put it, “promote environmentally and economically sound solid waste resource management programs for Maui County and the State of Hawaii.” Since then, they’ve started and/or supported a huge array of “public education, demonstration, data-gathering, technical assistance and community programs” designed to make sure we limit our ecological footprint.
2020 Main St., #806, Wailuku; Mauirecyclinggroup.org
MAUI TOMORROW FOUNDATION
In terms of advocating for more parks and open space, Maui Tomorrow has been legendary for the last two decades. Maui Tomorrow helped make sure that there’s a 155-acre beach park at Makena and not luxury condos. Maui Tomorrow helped ensure that Hawea Point is open to the public and not a luxury estate. Maui Tomorrow helped keep Kamaole Point open and not a private development. On issues of land use, invasive species, stream restoration and smart planning, Maui Tomorrow has no peer.
55 N. Church St., # A5, Wailuku; 808-244-7570; Maui-tomorrow.org
PLANT EXTINCTION PREVENTION PROGRAM OF HAWAII
The need to protect many of the rare plants in Hawaii and Maui from extinction is difficult. In 1990, the Hawaii Rare Plant Restoration Group established the Plant Extinction Prevention Program (PEPP), a group of 60 public and private agencies and landowners who want to make sure our endangered flora survives. “To date, Hawaii is home to 239 “PEP species” which have fewer than 50 plants remaining in the wild,” states their website. “This designation signifies their imminent risk of extinction and a heightened need to protect all remaining plants.”
PU‘U KUKUI WATERSHED PARTNERSHIP
Maui Land & Pineapple Company considers the Pu‘u Kukui Watershed one of the “greatest initiatives,” and it’s easy to see why. Located at the summit of Mauna Kahalawai in West Maui, the watershed “is home to plant and animal species that exist nowhere else in Hawaii, let alone the rest of the world,” states the company’s publicity materials. “It’s also one of the wettest spots on earth.” Today the watershed partnership cares for more than 11,000 acres, which represents slightly more than half of Maui Land’s holdings in West Maui.
4900 Honoapi‘ilani Rd., Napili; 808-357-0203; Puukukui.org
SIERRA CLUB OF HAWAII MAUI GROUP
Like their national Sierra Club, the Maui Group’s whole purpose is to protect our natural environment and make sure natural resources are used responsibly and sustainably. Locally, the Sierra Club is at the forefront of issues like East Maui stream flows, biofuels, invasive species, cruise ships, coral reef degradation and sand exports, to name a few.
P.O. Box 791180, Paia; 808-419-5143; Mauisierraclub.org
TRI-ISLE RESOURCE CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
Tri-Isle brings an army of volunteers to work for a variety of conservation, economic, education and cultural programs. Tri-Isle has worked on community gardens, invasive species control, recycling, watershed conservation and more.
244 Papa Pl., #101; Kahului; 808-871-1010; Tri-isle.org
WEST MAUI MOUNTAIN WATERSHED PARTNERSHIP
Since 1998, this small organization in Lahaina has sought to protect West Maui water. “We build fence[s], remove invasive species, and protect the intact native forests of the West Maui Mountains,” states their website. “Endangered birds and plants have a better chance at survival, and best of all, our accomplishments help ensure that your faucet won’t run dry.”
PO Box 13240, Lahaina; 808-661-6600; Westmauiwatershed.org
* We originally published an outdated phone number for KCA. We regret the error.
Cover design: Darris Hurst