News Briefs | March 2023


OHA Trustees and Executives Attend Commonfund Forum

Kauaʻi Farmers and Fishers Sue DLNR

Kalo farmers and subsistence fishers from West Kauaʻi filed a lawsuit against the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) for failing to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a major hydro electric project being proposed for the Waimea River. The project’s environmental assessment (EA) and “finding of no significant impact” was approved by outgoing DLNR Chairperson Suzanne Case just prior to the holidays without a public hearing.

“DLNR cannot issue a 65-year lease for river water diversions based on the narrow and skewed inquiry of an environmental assessment,” said Elena Bryant, associate attorney at Earthjustice representing Pōʻai Wai Ola and Nā Kiaʻi Kai. “The deeper we dig into this situation, the shadier this story gets. We really had no choice at this point but to sue.”

The complaint notes DLNR staff were directed to expedite the environmental compliance process for the West Kauaʻi Energy Project (WKEP) being proposed by the Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) and AES Corp, a global energy company with a poor environmental record.

According to the EA, KIUC and AES expect to divert an average of 11 million gallons a day – four billion gallons a year – from the Waimea River for 65 years. The EA is silent on the foreseeable consequences of discharging much of that water onto the Mānā Plain where it would collect sediment, pesticides, and other pollution on its way out into the ocean.

HILT Announces New Hires

Photo: Olu Campbell

Hawaiʻi Land Trust (HILT), has named ʻOlu Campbell as President and CEO. Campbell has worked in both the public and private sectors in conservation, community empowerment, education, Native Hawaiian rights, food systems, climate change, housing and development, law, and business.

Early in his career he was a legacy lands specialist for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Since 2018, he served as the Community and Government Relations manager at Kamehameha Schools.

“Our ʻāina is the foundation from which our people thrive,” Campbell said. “I look forward to serving Hawaiʻi as we work to protect and steward significant places, and provide Native Hawaiian culture-based educational programming for our communities.”

Campbell earned a juris doctorate with an Environmental Law and Native Hawaiian Law Certificate from the William S. Richardson School of Law at UH Mānoa and a bachelor’s degree in biology with a Hawaiian Language Certificate also from UH Mānoa.

Photo: Keone Emeliano

HILT also announced Keone Emeliano has joined its ʻohana as the Mahukona steward and educator.

Mahukona on the Kohala Coast of Hawaiʻi Island is a center for traditional navigation and served as the hub for voyages between the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific.

HILT, in partnership with the Kohala community and Nā Kālai Waʻa, is in the process of purchasing the 642-acre Mahukona property for conservation. HILT has raised $20 million and still needs an additional $2.8 million. Learn more at

Emeliano’s role will be to work with the community to revitalize the land, remove invasive species and plant native ones, educate the next generation on ʻāina stewardship, and strengthen the culture of reciprocity between people and the land and water.

“I am excited to jump on board with HILT to mālama Mahukona,” Emeliano said. “My entire working life has been dedicated to caring for and protecting ʻāina in Kohala. I can’t think of a better way to use my deep passion and expertise than working for HILT.”

Court Ruling Could Reopen Aquarium Pet Trade

The state Environmental Court ruled in late January that the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) may begin considering and potentially issuing permits for commercial aquarium collection in the West Hawaiʻi Regional Fishery Management Area, modifying a five-year de facto ban imposed by the courts in 2017.

The ruling amended a statewide injunction prohibiting DLNR from issuing commercial aquarium collection permitsin West Hawaiʻi. The injunction remains in place for the rest of the state.

The court, however, clarified that its decision does not allow aquarium collection to resume. Before that happens, DLNR must first consider and approve any such permits, a process which will be subject to public review and input.

“We’re disappointed that the court would agree to open West Hawaiʻi to aquarium collection again, given the serious legal deficiencies with the industry’s EIS and the serious threat of environmental harm posed,” said Earthjustice attorney Mahesh Cleveland. “Fortunately, we still have recourse to correct these flaws, and we plan to do everything we can to [prevent] West Hawaiʻi’s reefs from getting hammered by the trade once again.”

Concurrently, the state Senate is considering a law to ban commercial aquarium collection outright, which has garnered overwhelming public support.

Kaina Joins KS as General Counsel and VP

Photo: Nalani Fuimori Kaina
Nalani Fuimori Kaina

Nalani Fujimori Kaina has been named general counsel and vice president for Kamehameha Schools (KS). She began her new role with KS in early January.

Kaina joins KS with more than 20 years of experience. She most recently served as executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi, a position she held since 2009. Prior to becoming executive director, she started her career with Legal Aid as the only full-time practicing attorney on Molokaʻi and later served as Maui County managing attorney and deputy director.

Kaina is also a director with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, a former chair of the Hawaiʻi State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and a past president and director of the Rural Community Assistance Corporation. The KS Kapālama graduate has a juris doctorate from the New York University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from Macalester College.

“I am excited to join Kamehameha Schools to continue my service to the Native Hawaiian community, Kaina said. “My years at KS Kapālama were formative and to be able to return to ensure that Ke Aliʻi Pauahi’s legacy continues is such an honor.”

Native Hawaiian Cultural Exhibits

On Feb. 16, the Hawaiʻi Convention Center in Honolulu unveiled two Hawaiian cultural exhibits with a special blessing and luncheon.

The Pūaliʻahu Feather Cape Exhibit features several capes, a helmet and lei pāpale, all created by master featherworker Rick San Nicolas using traditional techniques. The exhibit includes a cape designed by San Nicolas in honor of Princess Kaʻiulani made of peacock feathers, a replica of a cape worn by Prince Kūhiō, and a replica of a cloak worn by Piʻilani, the famed high chief of Maui.

Located on the ma uka side of the center’s third floor, the exhibit was created by San Nicolas and Kauila Kawelu Barber and will be available to the public for viewing for two years.

The second exhibit, also located on the third floor, is The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu which was featured at Bishop Museum last year. It honors the four legendary māhū, individuals who embody both male and female spirits – who brought healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi.

The display includes replicas of the stones, historic photographs, artwork and the eight-minute Academy Award-shortlisted animated film, Kapaemahu. The convention center will become the permanent home of the Kapaemahu exhibit.

NOAA Asks Public to Help Track Honu

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) “Honu Count” is an initiative launched in 2017, when it first asked beachgoers to report sightings of honu (green sea turtles) with temporary alphanumeric markings on their shells.

It gives the public an opportunity to engage in honu research and conservation. Previously, sightings were reported through phone calls or emails. However, a new online system makes it easier to report sightings and helps researchers to more accurately track honu locations. The Honu Count survey can be accessed through a smartphone. The survey generates a map that allowing users to place a pin at the location of the sighting, giving researchers exact coordinates.

Honu have an internal compass that use the earth’s geomagnetic signposts to help them navigate back to the beaches where they were hatched to reproduce. Mature honu that live around the main Hawaiian Islands travel northwest during the spring to reproduce at Lalo (French Frigate Shoals) an atoll in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Visit the Honu Count page to learn tips for safe viewing and reporting. NOAA reminds the public to observe honu from a responsible distance of at least 10 feet.

Go to:

Fuel Spill Prompts Calls to Remove Telescopes

Kākoʻo Haleakalā, a Native Hawaiian rights group, is circulating a petition calling for the removal of all telescopes from both Haleakalā on Maui and Maunakea on Hawaiʻi Island. This after recent reports of a 700-gallon diesel fuel spill at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex near the summit of Haleakalā.

The group said the spill, which occurred on Jan. 29, occurred when a fuel pump for an on-site backup generator failed to shut off due to mechanical problems. Maui’s four primary aquifers are sheltered by Haleakalā.

In a press release Kākoʻo Haleakalā said that the spill constituted an “abuse of ʻāina” and showcased a “lack of human decency” toward Hawaiʻi’s sacred places, natural resources and people adding that “Kākoʻo Haleakalā remains steadfast that no further desecration should take place atop this, or any other mountain.”

Group members opposed construction of both the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Maui and the Thirty Meter Telescope on Hawaiʻi Island, staging demonstrations dating back to 2015.

To find out more go to

Cultural Practitioners Awarded $25,000 Grants

First Peoples Fund, the oldest national organization dedicated to supporting Native American artists and culture bearers, recently named four outstanding individuals as First Peoples Fund’s 2023 Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award honorees and recipients of $25,000 in cash grants to continue their vital cultural work.

Among the four honorees were two Native Hawaiians: Net-maker Charles Kealoha Leslie from Kaʻawaloa (Captain Cook), Hawaiʻi Island, and Carver Tom Pōhaku Stone from Kāneʻohe, Oʻahu.

The award recognizes exceptional artists who have worked selflessly to weave their cultural knowledge and ancestral gifts into their communities. These practicing artists are nominated for the award by their students, mentees, fellow artists and other community members.

“These honorees are our knowledge holders. They embody our cultural assets and are our connection to ancestral knowledge, language, and identity, “said Lori Pourier, president of the First People’s Fund since 1999.

Hui Aloha Kīholo Seeks New E.D.

Nonprofit Hui Aloha Kīholo recently announced their search for a new executive director.

The organization has kuleana to mālama the Kīholo State Park Reserve in the “kekaha wai ʻole o nā Kona” – waterless Kekaha region of North Kona. The area includes Kīholo Bay and the ma kai area of the ahupuaʻa of Puʻuwaʻawaʻa and Puʻuanahulu.

The Kīholo State Park Reserve is jointly managed by Hui Aloha Kīholo and the Division of State Parks as part of a curatorship agreement. The area includes anchialine ponds, ancient home sites, trails and archaeological features, and swimming areas. Hui Aloha Kīholo acts as a steward of the area partnering with stakeholders to provide on-the-ground presence, maintenance, camping facilitation, community engagement and education, and protection of the area’s natural and cultural resources.

As a nonprofit, the organization is seeking a leader skilled in fundraising, fiscal management, marketing and public relations, who is committed to the mālama ʻāina values of Hui Aloha Kīholo. For more information to go:

Nā Makamae O Kawaiahaʻo Workshop

Kawaiahaʻo Church Archives will be hosting a workshop on their grant project (funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services), Nā Makamae O Kawaiahaʻo, on March 30, 2023, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., in the Liliʻuokalani Conference Room.

The goal of the workshop is to share with the larger community the insights and progress of the project and to inspire others in the creation of their digital archives.

Email Christine at or call 808-469-3000 to register.