Saturday, October 21, 2017
27 Years Ago Today
27 years ago today, on October 21, 1990 the bombing of Kaho'olawe was stopped by Executive Order of then President George Bush.
A decades-long protest by the people of Hawai'i was finally heard. Honolulu Republican Patricia Saiki, the leading Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, was backed by the President in her appeal. Rejecting strong Navy objections and reversing nearly 50 years of U.S. policy, Bush ordered the military to stop bombing practice on the Hawaiian Island. A Kaho'olawe Island Conveyance Commission was formed to make a formal recommendation for the Island's use, resulting in the establishment of the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve in 1993 and the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission, or the KIRC, in 1994; its mandate: to preserve, restore and protect the cultural and ecological resources on Kaho'olawe and its surrounding waters.
The 1994 act of Congress conveyed the Island back to the State of Hawai'i, however it held the Navy responsible for a 10-year cleanup of UXO on Kaho'olawe throughout which it would retain control over access to the Island. In November of 2003, a ceremony was held at 'Iolani Palace commemorating the transfer of access control from federal to state hands, and the KIRC launched its now 13-year program of ocean and land management; on-island safety and operations; cultural coordination; and administrative management, including outreach, education, GIS mapping, collections handling, volunteer training and, most notably, fundraising to sustain this work - now and for future generations.
The 10-year cleanup of UXO on Kaho'olawe was funded federally, with 11% of the budget set aside to initiate long-term environmental restoration, archaeological and educational activities within the Reserve. As explained by KIRC Chair Michele McLean, "Twenty years ago, when the Reserve was returned to the State, the KIRC was funded by a small percentage of the federal appropriation made for the clean-up of unexploded ordnance. Provided in payments over many years, the "Kaho'olawe Rehabilitation Trust Fund" was never intended - nor was ever large enough - to serve as an endowment to perpetually support the KIRC's mission of restoration and management of the former bombing range. In the final reports to Congress before Kaho'olawe was returned to the State, it was acknowledged that federal support would be limited and that state funding would ultimately be needed."
KIRC Executive Director Michael K. Nāho'opi'i adds, "Since the last appropriation to the Trust Fund in 2004, the KIRC has worked diligently to establish a permanent funding source that would allow for the continued restoration of Kaho'olawe. Though we have significantly extended the lifespan of program activities through grants and donor programs, we found that the Reserve's critical operations costs far exceed the scope of these charitable resources. It is our contention that this continues to be a responsibility of the state."
Returning to the Legislature each session to make our case, the KIRC finally succeeded during the last biennium, securing $1M in General Funds through the DLNR and an additional $450K through a bill championed by Representative Ryan Yamane. While this marks a milestone in Kaho'olawe history, it only represents a portion of the minimum budget required to maintain operations.
To date, with the help of a strong network of inspired volunteers and grant supporters, we have restored hundreds of acres of Kaho'olawe wetlands, watersheds and reefs; put 400,000 native plants in the ground; worked beside 12,000+ community volunteers; and engaged countless individuals through education & outreach efforts on and off-island.
Today, we celebrate the enormous impact that Kaho'olawe has made, in our hearts and minds and for the advancement of ecological and cultural study and practice. We mahalo all who have tirelessly given of themselves- from volunteers, who spend days at a time in challenging circumstances contributing such a big part of themselves to the restoration, protection and preservation of this important place, to those submitted testimony during each year's long string of hearings.
There is much more work to be done - work that will continue with the spirit and strong will of this community. But today, we celebrate Kaho'olawe.