Photo: Sacred birthing stones at Kūkaniloko
OHA’s 511 acres in Wahiawā surround the sacred birthing stones at Kūkaniloko (foreground). OHA is working with the community to reforest the land. - Photo: Kaipo Kīʻaha

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) has won a $2.2 million grant award from the Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Challenge in partnership with the Army Garrison-Hawaiʻi.

“The funding will advance the work outlined in our community-led conceptual master plan for our Wahiawā lands,” said OHA Board Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey. “Our partnerships with respected subject matter and cultural experts with ties to these lands are vital to carrying out the responsible stewardship of our lands.”

The REPI Challenge is a competition that funds conservation partners near military installations and supports large-scale innovation, conservation, and climate resilience actions. OHA’s I Ulu Mai Ka Ulu Lāʻau project will work with community partners on reforestation, agroforestry, and native seed orchard projects on its Wahiawā lands near Schofield Barracks.

OHA’s Wahiawā lands include 511 acres surrounding the Kūkaniloko birth stones.

This area, known as Kapuahuawa, was where the highest-ranking children were born and raised to be leaders of the lāhui. For more than 60 years, the Hawaiian Civic Club of Wahiawā (HCCW) has cared for the stones and grounds at Kapuahuawa and educated the community on their significance.

As part of the project, HCCW will continue their efforts to replant the native Hawaiian hardwood forest that once flourished in the area, contributing to the area’s overall watershed management and providing a buffer to this culturally significant site. HCCW will also provide advisory support on the REPI project.

Other project components include planting disease-resistant koa, ʻiliahi, and rapid ʻōhiʻa death-resistant ʻōhiʻa by the Hawaiʻi Agriculture Research Center and Forest Solutions Inc. The University of Hawaiʻi (UH) College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Relations in partnership with educational nonprofit ʻĀina Kaiāulu will also scale up its soil remediation, ecosystem services, and food production demonstration plots.

ʻĀina Kaiāulu will continue to provide a bridge to the Wahiawā community through workdays, education, and training opportunities to develop agriculture workforce skills.

“The REPI project presents significant benefits for Wahiawā lands by fostering collaborative conservation efforts, enhancing resilience to climate change, and providing resources for sustainable land use practices, ultimately contributing to the overall wellbeing and ecological health of the community,” said Kahealani Acosta, co-founder of ʻĀina Kaiāulu.

“We are here to support our Wahiawā community through this project and hope to share and preserve the innate knowledge embedded at this sacred site.”

UH Natural Resources and Environmental Management in partnership with the UH Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation will establish a native seed orchard of 10 to 15 native workhorse trees, shrubs, and ground cover species to address the shortage of native seeds in Hawaiʻi. Replanting with native plant species can help to mitigate wildfires. Education and training opportunities are planned for all aspects of the REPI project.

The five-year grant pursued by OHA’s Land Division staff represents the organization’s first multi-million-dollar award dedicated to land management.

$2.24 million will fund the first-year grant activities, including the purchase of equipment and materials, planning, designating project sites, site preparation, and providing resources to each community partner to support their successful project implementation. Additional funding, representing a total of $8 million, is anticipated over the five-year grant period.


For more information on OHA’s Wahiawā lands visit www.oha.org/aina/wahiawa-lands.