By Halli Holmgren

Halli Holmgren is seen here with Heather Abbey Tonneson, refuge manager for the Kaua‘i National Wildlife Refuge Complex, during the Kaua‘i Conservation Expo at McBryde Gardens, Lawa‘i.

Halli Holmgren is seen here with Heather Abbey Tonneson, refuge manager for the Kaua‘i National Wildlife Refuge Complex, during the Kaua‘i Conservation Expo at McBryde Gardens, Lawa‘i.

The National Tropical Botanical Garden in Lawa‘i, in partnership with the Kaua‘i Conservation Alliance, hosted the Kaua‘i Conservation Expo Sept. 7. The event, held during the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, was all about showcasing conservation work on Kaua‘i and in the state of Hawai‘i, and also about promoting awareness.

When we arrived at the NTBG gardens, we saw several booths by all organizations working to help to conserve our island and the ocean around us. In the beginning, people such as Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., NTBG Executive Director Chipper Wichman, Nature Conservancy Executive Director Ulalia Woodside and others gave a short speech. They thanked all the organizations, government agencies and also talked about conserving our island and making it a better and more eco-friendly place for our keiki and our future keiki.

One of the organizations was the National Wildlife Refuge at Kilauea Point. The refuge is about conserving and enhancing the native birds, sea birds and their nesting colonies. The refuge has a 725-meter predator-proof fence for the endangered birds to nest safely. The refuge is helping restore seabird population and it is also educating people about the environment.

Another great organization is the Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committee, a government nonprofit organization working to prevent, control or eliminate most threatening invasive plant and animal species in order to preserve Kaua‘i’s native biodiversity.

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was created by the United States Congress in 1992 to protect the whales and their habitat. The sanctuary is within four Main Hawaiian Islands, including the North Shore of Kaua‘i, where it goes from the shoreline to 600-feet deep. It is considered on the planet’s more important humpback whale habitats. Every winter, about 10,000 humpback whales travel from the cold waters off Alaska to spend a few weeks here.

There were many other organizations, including Dolphin Smart, Kaua‘i Nēnē Habitat Conservation Plan, Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Limahuli Garden, County of Kaua‘i Planning Department and others.

You can learn so much at the gardens. They have some of the rarest plants in the world, and even seeds from already extinct plants. There is a section of the garden called Canoe Garden, because there are 30 types of plants that the Polynesian voyagers brought on canoes when they first arrived on the Islands. The Polynesians did not know what was here, so they brought plants, dogs, pigs and chickens so that they would have food to survive and to cultivate. Some of the plants were kalo, ‘ulu, hoi, hala, ‘uala, kukui and others.

The organizers were so committed to make a zero-waste event that they forgot to bring trash cans, so everything went to recycling or compost bins.

One of the things I learned was that in the span of just over 200 years we have changed our world’s biodiversity so much that all the plants and animals with which we share the planet, are disappearing at an alarming rate. This goes to show we all need to help to conserve our island and planet if we want this to be our home.

There are so many things we don’t notice we do that are hurting our island such as cars, trash and even animals. People can help in so many different ways, they can use less cars by taking the bus, buy food from local farms, recycling, composting, beach cleanups and much more.

  • Halli Holmgren is a 10th grade student from Kaua‘i. She loves to skateboard, surf, make art and spend time with her dogs.