KIRC Receives $90K Grant

Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission

Press Release


July 2, 2015

Contact: Kelly McHugh | (808) 243-5886

KIRC Receives $90K Grant

In the closing hours of the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission’s (KIRC) 30-day crowdfunding campaign, Aloha Kaho’olawe 2015, (which raised a whopping $40,000 from individual donations in 30 days, with zero campaign preparation or fundraising committee), Executive Director Mike Nāho’opi’i received a call. Longtime KIRC partner, supporter and industry allies from the Hawai`i State Department of Health (DOH) Clean Water Branch’s Polluted Runoff Control Program wanted to know if and how they could help.

With a successful track record of grant programs spanning back to 2003, the KIRC has worked closely with the DOH to diminish excessive sedimentation in Reserve, and therefore State and global, waters. An important part of this process for the KIRC has been the integration of community volunteers, specifically recruited, trained and engaged in service learning opportunities that enable them to take the work back home to be applied in their respective environments – whether it be through direct application or lessons learned. To date, DOH project volunteer groups have covered 483 of the island’s 4,000 acres earmarked for restoration; a goal projected to be multi-generational in scope and to require tens of thousands more volunteers. In the past 2 years alone, the Polluted Runoff Control Program has subsidized access to the Reserve for a volunteer force responsible for 20,000 native plantings, resulting in a statistically significant increase in native plant cover and a decrease in bare soil.

“Our mission is to implement the vision for Kahoʻolawe in which the kino (body or physical manifestation) of Kanaloa (one of the four major akua (gods) of traditional Hawaiian culture; associated with the ocean, long distance voyaging, and healing) is restored and nā poʻe o Hawaiʻi (the people of Hawaiʻi) care for the land,” says KIRC Executive Director Mike Nāho’opi’i, “Our volunteer program ensures that the people of Hawaiʻi are exercising this kuleana, not just the people of the KIRC. Our DOH grants allow us to fully embrace our mission, providing fundamental financial support, technical guidance and the ability to engage the community in the restoration process. If the volunteer program goes away, so much else goes with it.”

During this year’s Legislative Session, the State of Hawai’i appropriated $1M to the KIRC from the General Fund; marking the first appropriation since the Federal Government’s initial provision in 1993. While this marks a milestone in Kaho’olawe history, it only represents about 1/3 of the minimum budget required to maintain current operations, including the volunteer program. As a result, the KIRC has had to launch a complete restructuring of staff and is putting together a plan to severely limit operations.

“A large portion of our budget is focused on safety,” continues Nāho’opi’i, “When the Navy transferred access of Kaho’olawe to the State of Hawai’i in 2004 and subsequently departed the island, only 9% had been cleared for digging, with an additional 66% surface-swept of UXO, or unexploded ordnance. The KIRC was created by federal and state law for environmental restoration and cultural, education & archaeological activities – NOT for further removal of UXO, and yet we are responsible for the safe transport, lodging and working conditions of every individual that steps foot into that Reserve. It is highly common to find new ordnance in the Reserve, especially by the Ocean Program Team, and we take this hazard very seriously.”

In response to this year’s legislative results, the KIRC immediately launched the Aloha Kahoʻolawe 2015 in an effort to mobilize community members to show their support by joining the KIRC as a member. “We wanted to see where we could get before the close of the fiscal year,” remarks Public Information Specialist Kelly McHugh, “How many jobs could be saved, how many volunteer accesses could be secured, how many voices could be heard in the community in order to initiate a better outcome for Kahoʻolawe then that dictated by the State.”

And with $40,000 raised in unrestricted donations, new large-scale, complimentary fundraising events in the works by pivotal supporters and this critical call from the DOH, which resulted in a $90,000, 1-year extension to the KIRC’s Hakioawa Watershed restoration project (which will advance approximately 5 of the projected 12 volunteer accesses scheduled for this fiscal year, down from 34 completed volunteer accesses in FY15), the KIRC more than hit their mark of raising $100,000 before the start of the new fiscal year.

The KIRC will continue its Aloha Kahoʻolawe membership program ( through the 2016 Legislative session, both as a means of critical financial support and to demonstrate that the people of Hawaiʻi value the historical, cultural, ecological and community building resources shared through the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve. Additional grant extension opportunities have been offered for specific KIRC programs and are being actively pursued.