Affiliate of the Week: Conservation Council for Hawai‘i
In honor of our 80th Anniversary celebration throughout 2016, the National Wildlife Federation is recognizing each of our Affiliate Partners in a special “Affiliate of the Week” blog series that showcases the dedicated conservation efforts taking place across the country each day. This week we celebrate our Hawai‘i affiliate, the Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, and their commitment to wildlife.
WHO WE ARE
Supported by two full-time staff positions, a volunteer board, and more than 5,000 dues-paying members and supporters, the Conservation Council for Hawai‘i (CCH) is one of the oldest and most effective wildlife organizations in Hawai‘i. Founded in 1950, CCH is dedicated to protecting native Hawaiian plants, animals, and ecosystems for future generations. CCH’s diverse membership includes scientists, educators, students, Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, fishers, gatherers, hunters, artists, photographers, businesses, and elected officials. CCH has been proud to serve as the National Wildlife Federation’s state affiliate since the 1970s.
WHAT WE DO
For more than 66 years, CCH has spoken out for wildlife and taken action to protect the islands’ flora and fauna by employing education and outreach, community organizing, policy-making, and legal advocacy.
CCH’s strategic drivers include climate change, invasive species, funding for wildlife, and connecting people with nature. Here are some of the programs on which CCH is currently focused:
Expanding the boundaries of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site – Beginning with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909, six U.S. presidents have been involved in protecting the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and surrounding waters. Expanding the boundaries of the monument from 50 nautical miles out to 200 nautical miles will help protect more than 7,000 marine species, 25% of which are found nowhere else in the world. Threats include climate change, commercial overfishing of tuna, deep seabed mining, and marine debris. Papahānaumokuākea is also a sacred area from which the Native Hawaiian people believe all life began, and to which spirits return after death. The expanded monument would be the largest marine protected area in the world.
- International Union for Conservation of Nature 2016 World Conservation Congress – For the past 5 years, CCH and a coalition of supporters have worked to bring the “Olympics” of conservation, the World Conservation Congress, to U.S. shores for the first time. The 2016 assembly, “Planet at a Crossroads,” will be held from September 1-10 in Honolulu. In addition to participating in the General Assembly as a full voting member of the IUCN, CCH is co-sponsoring dozens of presentations and motions addressing topics such as climate change adaptation in the Pacific, the Endangered Species Act, and indigenous knowledge in resource management. CCH and NWF will also be sharing an information booth in the Exhibition.
The ‘Ewa sinkholes – Sinkholes in raised coral reefs on the ‘Ewa Plain of O‘ahu serve as repositories for the bones of bizarre and flightless Hawaiian birds, previously unknown to humans and found only in the “fossil” record. They include extinct long-legged owls, sea hawks, two species of Hawaiian crow, and a huge goose-like duck named the “Moa Nalo.” CCH is working with a private landowner to transfer a 6-acre parcel of sinkholes to the State of Hawai‘i and establish a docent program and protocols for site visits to this popular outdoor classroom.
- Wildlife viewing etiquette – Hawai‘i is beloved by kama‘äina (native born) and malihini (newcomers and visitors) alike for its stunning, incomparable natural environment. But the qualities that draw so many to its shores often obscure the enormous challenges Hawai‘i faces in protecting its unique and vulnerable wildlife, including humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals, dolphins, and sea turtles. CCH is reaching out to residents and the visitor industry to reduce the negative impacts of human-wildlife interactions. With education and outreach, wildlife viewing can be rewarding and safe, and stress-free for the animals.
Environmental education and youth engagement – CCH is known for its high-quality materials, successful community events, and educational activities. CCH produces wildlife education posters for every public, private, charter, and Native Hawaiian language school in the state. It is also partnering with wildlife artist Patrick Ching to distribute his book about co-existing with wildlife to every 4th grade class and library in Hawai‘i, and author and artist Caren Loebel-Fried to produce a children’s book about the extinction of Hawaiian forest birds using the beautiful and culturally significant ‘ö‘ö birds as a tragic example of our losses.
MAKING AN NATIONAL IMPACT
CCH’s efforts to secure legal protection and critical habitat for hundreds of Hawaiian species under the Endangered Species Act resulted in nationwide reforms to the listing process and a focus on listing and recovering species at the ecosystem level. CCH’s affiliation with the National Wildlife Federation provides an important island state perspective on federal wildlife policies of interest to NWF, and gives CCH a voice on Capitol Hill. CCH relies on NWF to help build important relationships nationally, and CCH provides NWF an entrée into Hawaiian conservation.
The CCH-NWF partnership also provides opportunities for NWF to be involved with the Native Hawaiian people in maintaining biodiversity in the Pacific region. Virtually all of Hawai‘i’s native species are endemic to the islands and found naturally nowhere else in the world. If these unique animals and plants are not saved in Hawai‘i, they will be lost forever.
Although Hawai‘i makes up less than 0.2 percent of the total landmass in the U.S., approximately 30 percent of the known extinctions and half of the possible extinctions are Hawaiian species. Nearly a third of the nation’s listed endangered and threatened species are Hawaiian species. CCH’s partnership with NWF is essential to holding the line in Hawai‘i and ensuring a healthy and diverse environment for generations to come.
Join as a member of Conservation Council for Hawai‘i or attend one of its events, such as the 2016 Annual Awards and Membership Meeting on October 22 in Honolulu. Visit www.conservehi.org to learn more.