Kaua’i’s conservation groups are getting a much-needed boost after the County of Kauaʻi provided grant funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The Rise to Work portion of the Kaua‘i grant is designed to help people who have lost their jobs in tourism due to the Covid 19 crisis. The idea is to help them transition into natural resource management roles, while filling a labor gap for the host organizations. Nine groups, including the Makauwahi Cave Reserve (MCR), the Kupu Intern Program, National Tropical Botanical Garden and Mālama Kaua‘i, joined the scheme which will provide additional staff resources.
Grants ranged from $65,000 to $300,000 and the timescale has been tight; the monies must be spent by the end of the year, although it is hoped that this innovative scheme might be expanded. Many of the grant recipients have seen their normal income slashed as tourism businesses cut back on sponsorship and paying visitors vanish from the island. This grant program allows them to deliver their programs despite the economic challenges. The groups will also be developing a pool of trained conservation practitioners for Kaua‘i.
Grant recipient MCR is working on a wetland creation and management project as well as pioneering lowland forest restoration based on fossil pollen records found at the cave. Dr. David Burney of MCR said "CARES Act funding through the County of Kauaʻi has created jobs for local people who need work. For the Makauwahi Cave Reserve, this means opportunities to step up our efforts to control invasive species and restore habitats for endangered waterbirds and other natives."
Kauaʻi Forest Bird Recovery Project were thrilled to receive funding for an Intern through the local "Kupu" program which supports the training of young people involved in environmental programs. Coordinator Dr. Cali Crampton said, “This allowed us to hire our former Kupu intern as a full-time technician and still have a new Kupu intern to train up and help out. That means continuity and really allows us to invest more time and training in staff capacity.”
Rise to Work mirrors a new movement in Hawaiʻi, spearheaded by organizations like the Green Passport Initiative, to refocus the economy on protecting the natural resources and unique ecosystems that make the islands so attractive; re-imagining the post-Covid tourism industry is part of the process.
Post by Helen Raine, Pacific Birds Conservation Specialist based on Kauaʻi.