The Hawaii Audubon Society (HAS) mission focuses on conservation activities
"To foster community values that result in the protection and restoration of native wildlife and ecosystems and conservation of natural resources through education, science and advocacy in Hawai‘i and the Pacific."
The HAS Conservation Committee works to prevent threats to native wildlife and habitats by reviewing and submitting comments on a variety of proposed projects and activities statewide. Members actively screen documents (news releases, permit notices, and environmental compliance) for issues relevant to HAS conservation concerns and also monitor environmental bills related to our mission statement and submit testimony on behalf of the Society as appropriate.
Other Conservation Organizations
Please click here to find information on other conservation organizations in Hawai‘i and beyond.
Current Hawaii Audubon Society Conservation Issues
August 30, 2020
Observation and Monitoring of the Ae’o or Black-necked Stilt
at Rim Island 2, Hawaii Kai Marina, Oahu, Hawaii.
by Linda Paul, Hawaii Audubon Society, and
Jim Dittmar, Concerned Citizens of Hawaii
1. Kuapa Pond Background
Kuapa Pond was one of the largest wetlands in Hawaii. Various authorities have estimated its original size from 400 to 500 acres. The wetland was important foraging and nesting habitat for native Hawaiian waterbirds: the Ae`o or Black-necked Stilt, the `Alae Ke`oke`o or Hawaiian Coot, and the `Alae`ula or Common Moorhen. (Figure No. 1 Ae’o – the Blackneck Stilt)
The loss of this wetland due to development was one of the major causes of the Hawaiian waterbirds becoming endangered. A map published in the Honolulu Star Bulletin newspaper on March 3, 1947, shows two islands in Kuapa Lagoon. Rim Island 2 is identified as a bird sanctuary.
2. Hawaii Kai Development
In 1959 dredging began in Kuapa Pond. 1961 Kaiser-Aetna leased Kuapa Pond and surrounding area of 521 acres from the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate to convert the wetlands into residential tracts. The Pond was reduced to 236 acres and dredged to create the Hawaii Kai Marina. Rim Islands 1 and 2 were reconfigured into two donut-shaped islands to hold future dredge spoils. The Hawaii Kai community was initially planned for population of 60,000; the current population is approximately 28,500. No mitigation was provided for the loss of the wetland habitat.
3. The Hawaii Kai Marina Community Association (HKMCA) dredges the Marina and entrance channel as needed to maintain the navigational depths of the waterway. During the maintenance dredging of the Marina in 1992 Rim Island 1 was completely filled and the interior of Rim Island 2 was partially filled, but the remaining interior pond and wetland, although smaller, still provided some good nesting and foraging habitat for the Ae’o or Black-necked Stilt and shortly afterwards the Ae’o was recorded on Rim Island No.2. (Figure No. 2 Rim Island No.2)
4. Since then there have been many discussions with the HKMCA on whether the highest and best use of Rim Island 2 is as wildlife habitat or as a dredge disposal site. Once during the 1990s an agreement was reached to set aside a portion of Rim Island 2 for the Ae`o. However, the HKCA later reneged on the agreement and thereafter refused to allow independent wildlife surveys of the island.
5. In 2002, after a public hearing on the proposed maintenance dredging plans, Rim Island 2 was excluded from the disposal plans. After dredging resumed the dredging contractor was found to have disposed of the dredging material illegally and dredging was halted.
6. New Dredging Disposal Plans. In 2014 HKMCA brought in an unqualified "consultant" with no academic scientific credentials to evaluate Rim Island 2. Over a 14 month period the consultant, assisted by the HKMCA Harbor Patrol, conducted some unscientific surveys of Rim Island 2 and the Ae`o. In 2015 the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) adopted the HKMCA consultant’s unscientific conclusion that Rim Island 2 is a “biological sink” for the Black-necked Stilt because it allegedly has a limited food supply, lacks nesting habitat and predation by rats may occur. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) concurred with ACOE. In reviewing ACOE and USFWS documentation it appears that the federal agencies reached this conclusion without doing any surveys of their own.
7. Hawaii Audubon Society (HAS) and Concerned Citizens of Hawaii (CCH) members have observed and monitored Ae`o foraging and nesting activity on Rim Island 2 for over fifty years and continue to have concerns about the status of the Ae`o and ongoing disposal of dredge spoils at Rim Island 2. In 2017 they sent a 60-day notice letter to the USFWS, the ACOE, the EPA and other government agencies stating their intent to file suit, pursuant to the citizen suit provisions of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531 et seq., the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251 et seq. and the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 501 et seq. to challenge the agencies for failure to comply with all federal laws applicable to the depositing of dredge spoils onto the nesting habitat of the endangered Hawaiian Black-necked Stilt or "Ae`o" on Rim Island 2. HKMC is required to mitigate the taking of Ae`o wetland habitat by providing alternative habitat before it destroys the existing wetland habitat. Thereafter the ACOE told HCMCA not to dump dredge spoils on Rim Island 2 during the Ae`o nesting season, which begins in mid February and ends at the beginning of September.
8. Aerial Surveys. In 2019 and again in 2020 HAS and CCH undertook periodic drone flights to observe, monitor and videotape Ae`o activity on Rim Island 2 during nesting season. The drone is small and quiet and the videos indicate that it does not disturb the Ae`o. As a result they were able to observe nesting groups of stilts feeding at Rim Island 2. On August 16, 2019, they observed a large flock of what appear to be Ae`o circulating over interior of RI2. A drone flight confirmed that it was a flock of 15-20 Black-necked Stilts. In the past they have never seen more than six Ae`o on the island at any one time. They again flew a drone over Rim Island 2 on August 17, 2020, and found nesting groups of Ae`o, seven in all and another 22 or more Ae`o circulating over and around Rim Island 2.
(Figure No. 3 Ae’o Circulating over Rim Island No.2)
9. It appears that Ae`o are returning to Rim Island 2 from elsewhere. Based on current and long term observations there is ample evidence that Rim Island 2 provides good Ae`o foraging and nesting habitat and all disposal of dredge spoils onto the island should permanently cease.
List of Figures:
Ae`o or Black-necked Stilt
Rim Island 2 Photo credit: Jim Dittmar.
Aerial of Ae’o flocking over Rim Island 2 in August 2020
Kawainui-Hāmākua Marsh Complex Master Plan
In October 2019, HAS submitted testimony to the Hawai‘i State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) regarding its position on the Kawainui Master Plan Final Environmental Impact Statement, stating that it still does not meet the requirements of Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapter 343 nor Hawaii Administrative Rules (HAR) Title 11 Section 200.
Click on the picture to read the full testimony.
Kawailoa Wind Project
Click here to read HAS's comments on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Kawailoa Wind Farm.
Hawaii Kai Marina Dredging
The Hawaii Audubon Society's position on the dumping of dredge spoils on Rim Islands I and II in the Kuapa Lagoon (now known as the Hawaii Kai Marina):
The Rim Islands in the Kuapa Lagoon (Hawaii Kai Marina) exist historically as documented by a map (below) published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on March 3, 1947 (page 4). The island in the middle of the map is now called Rim Island I and the island to the right, labeled "Bird Sanctuary", is now called Rim Island II. Henry Kaiser did not create Rim Islands I and II despite such claims. However, Kaiser did bulldoze depressions in the middle of both islands so that dredge spoils could be dumped into them. Thus "rim" islands were formed and waterbird wetland habitat was destroyed. The Hawaii Kai Marina has since filled in the depression on Rim Island I and partially filled in Rim Island II with dredge spoils.
The Hawaii Audubon Society would like both Rim islands restored to the extent documented in the 1947 map (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, below) to provide nesting habitat for endangered waterbirds, including the Hawaiian black-necked stilt. These wetland birds are endangered due to nesting habitat destruction from development and from predators. These islands provide safe nesting habitat for native waterbirds from predators, such as cats, dogs, and mongoose. However, non native cattle egrets and rats can access the Islands and prey upon stilt chicks and Koloa ducklings. Cattle egrets were observed in the area after the Hawaii Kai Marina Association bulldozed Rim Island II in February (2018) during stilt nesting season. As the landowner, the Marina should control predators of endangered Hawaiian black-necked stilt chicks. The Army Corps of Engineers has asked the Marina Association not to dump dredge spoils on Rim Island II during the Hawaiian black-necked stilt nesting season, which extends from mid-February through the end of August.
The Concerned Citizens of Hawaii (CCH) and HAS have been working together to preserve nesting habitat at the Rim Islands. If you would like to joint efforts with CCH and HAS to protect the stilt habitat on Rim Island 2, then please send a donation to either CCH or HAS at:
Hawaii Audubon Society, The Ae‘o of Kuapa Pond, 850 Richards Street #505, Honolulu, HI 96813