Our Kohala Watershed Partnership program is a voluntary coalition of private landowners and public land managers dedicated to restoring and protecting the native forested watersheds of Kohala Mountain.
It is estimated that half of Hawai‘i’s forests have been lost to deforestation, with the remainder threatened by non-native plants and animals. Through the implementation of an adaptive watershed management plan to create fenced preserves, manage feral ungulates, control invasive plants, and restore native forests, the Partnership’s projects protect essential ecosystem services including the capture of rainwater, sediment mitigation, and groundwater recharge. These actions ensure that both native ecosystems and human communities in North Hawai‘i have an abundant supply of fresh water, and protect downslope coastal ecosystems from the detrimental effects of land-based pollution.
In 2001, the major private landowners and public land managers of Kohala Mountain began discussions to address watershed management and conservation on a landscape scale rather than a property-specific basis. Following the precedent of eight other watershed partnerships across the state (together forming the Hawaiʻi Association of Watershed Partnerships), the Kohala Watershed Partnership (KWP) was formed by a Memorandum of Understanding in 2003, with nine land-owning partners and two associate partners, covering a total land area of more than 65,000 acres.
In the years following its formation, KWP authored a watershed management plan, which defined actions for addressing threats to the watershed while preserving its biological, cultural, and economic resources. The creation of this plan involved input from landowners, conservation groups like The Nature Conservancy, state land managers, and public users, including hunters and hikers. The management plan underwent an Environmental Assessment with the State of Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources, with a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) published in December 2008.
Current Structure and Funding
The Partners of KWP provide the vision and oversight to the KWP program team. Partners voluntarily contribute to the management of the watershed by providing in-kind materials, equipment, services, and personnel to KWP projects. Each partner has an equal voice in the consensus decisions made by the partnership as a whole, and has complete oversight of projects happening on their land (or within their management area, as with State land managers). A rotating three-person Executive Committee of Partners collaborates with The Kohala Center and oversees the work of the coordinator.
Partnership meetings are held six times per year to share Partner initiatives and project outcomes, and to review financial matters and annual plans. KWP projects are funded through a combination of donations and grants from private foundations, the State of Hawaiʻi, and Federal agencies.