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About Kahoolawe island in Hawaii

A collection of frequently asked questions about the island of Kahoolawe in Hawaii.

How Can I access the Kao Island Reserve?
Access to the reserve - which includes the island and two miles of ocean surrounding the island - is restricted because of the continued danger of unexploded ordnance. Access to the reserve is permitted only with authorization from the KIRC for specific purposes, such as restoration, education, and culture. Access opportunities are limited to volunteering with the KIRC in support of its cultural and nature resource projects and participating in cultural access with the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana (PKO). Persons interested in volunteering may contact the KIRC on Maui at 808-243-5020. The PKO access information can be obtained from their Web site at Kahoolawe.org.

Is It Safe to Access the Reserve?
No. Unexploded ordnance hazards remain throughout the Kahoolawe Island Reserve, even in the cleared areas, as well as in the uncleared areas and in the surrounding waters. Because of the existing hazards, including unexploded ordnance, rough terrain, and harsh environmental elements, no unauthorized persons are allowed into the reserve, and protective measures have been adopted to maximize safety for those persons with permission to access the reserve. An access and risk management plan was developed specifically for this purpose.

Are there facilities for volunteers who access the reserve?
Basic facilities and amenities, such as toilets and camp sites, are provided for individuals and groups who access the reserve as part of an authorized access. Volunteers must find their own transportation to the island of Maui. Transportation to Kahoolawe will be provided.

Is fishing or boating allowed in the reserve waters?
Trolling is permitted on two scheduled weekends each month in waters deeper then 30 fathoms (180 feet). No other fishing, ocean recreation, or additional activities are allowed within the reserve. Absolutely no bottom fishing or use of anchors is permitted because of the hazard of unexploded ordnance and risk of damage to coral and other parts of the marine ecosystem.

Are there special rules that apply to the reserve?
Yes. Those rules are found in Chapter 13-261, Hawaii Administrative Rules. The Kahoolawe Island Reserve (the island plus the submerged lands and waters within two nautical miles of the island) is divided into two zones - A and B. Zone A includes all of the submerged lands and waters between Kahoolawe's shoreline and the waters less then 30 fathoms. Unauthorized entry into Zone A is prohibited at all times, except in case of emergency. Zone B includes all waters and submerged lands between a depth of 180feet and two nautical miles from the shoreline of the island. Unauthorized entry into Zone B is prohibited at all times, except for trolling on the days stipulated by the Open Waters Schedule/ Trollers must remain underway at all times while in Zone B.

Who enforces the rules?
The rules governing the use of the submerged lands and waters within two nautical miles of the shoreline of Kahoolawe are enforced by the State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE), as well as the KIRC and the United States Coast Guard.

What is KIRC doing to restore the reserve?
KIRC is actively pursuing restoration projects in both the ocean and island portions of the reserve. Data on species currently living in the reserve is continuously being collected. Ongoing monitoring is conducted to detect any threats to the ecosystem and species that inhabit the reserve. On Kahoolawe, the restoration program has worked successfully to reforest and re-vegetate portions of the island, implement erosion control systems, and replace alien plant species with native species. To support these efforts, a 500 thousand gallon rainwater catchment and storage facility that provides irrigation has been installed and operated for more than a year, greatly accelerating the pace of revegatation and environmental restoration.

How can I volunteer to help with restoration efforts?
Anyone interested in volunteering to help in restoration activities can contact the restoration program at 808-243-5020.

How does the KIRC care for the cultural resources of the reserve?
KIRC operates a culture and education program to ensure that the island and its cultural resources are managed effectively and appropriately. Cultural protocols are carefully followed and cultural practitioners routinely participate in planning and conducting cultural activities. Restoration work is continuously carried out on archaeological and cultural sites throughout the island.

Can someone from KIRC come to my school or organization to talkabut Kahoolawe?
Yes, the KIRC Cultural and Education Program provides speakers and materials to educate students and community groups about Kahoolawe. Please call the KIRC office at 808-243-5020 for more information.

How can I help Kahoolawe?
You or a group you belong to can volunteer to work on KIRC projects. Call 808-243-5020.

Can I make a donation?
Donations are gratefully accepted. Please call 808-243-5020 for information on giving opportunities.

Who is responsible for the management of the Kahoolawe Island Reserve?
The Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission was established in 1993 by the Hawaii State Legislature to manage the reserve. Composed of seven commission members, the KIRC relies on a staff of 22 with expertise in Native Hawaiian culture, ocean management, environmental restoration, planning, policy development, and ordnance safety to fulfill its management responsibility.

What is planned for Kahoolawe?
The KIRC strategic plan calls for a campaign to raise funds through partnerships and grants to provide a sustainable trust fund, which will enable needed restoration, stewardship, cultural and educational initiatives to succeed. A copy of the strategic plan can be found on the KIRC Web site at Kahoolawe.hawaii.gov The strategic plan initiatives include:

  • Assessing and stabilizing cultural sites, and providing for appropriate access and cultural practices.
  • Systematically restoring the native environment.
  • Developing a significant volunteer base for the purpose of cultural and natural resource restoration.
  • Installing and maintaining appropriate and sustainable infrastructure, including on-island improvements.
  • -Improving and establishing new inter-island transportation, along with energy, communication and water resources, sanitation, and a Kihei information center.
  • Developing an enforcement network spanning the community and government to protect Kahoolawe and its waters from illegal, inappropriate, and unsafe use.
  • Maintaining a significant on-island presence for the purpose of managing and protecting the reserve.
  • Creating and distributing educational programs and materials to further the public's understanding of the cultural, historical, and spiritual significance of Kahoolawe.

Where can I get more information about Kahoolawe?
Information about Kahoolawe and the reserve is available at the KIRC Web site at Kahoolawe.hawaii.gov. For specific inquiries, contact the KIRC office by phone at 808-243-5020.

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