North Kona and South Kohala STEW-MAP

North Kona and South Kohala


North Kona and South Kohala

In Hawaii’s dry coastal areas, forests and the people that rely on them are increasingly affected by population growth, warming, drying, biological invasions, non-native fire regimes, and sea level rise - all of which threaten natural resources and the well-being of communities. Agency-based approaches alone are insufficient to fully address these multiple, interacting threats. Adaptive, community-based collaborative management in Hawaiʻi is making important formal but preliminary steps toward improving marine resources stewardship and exploring terrestrial co-management projects. A more sophisticated understanding of how stewardship groups are linked across social and biophysical space is important to supporting these co-management efforts.

The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project (STEW-MAP)  in North Kona and South Kohala, Hawai‘i Island is a collaborative research effort that began in May 2017 as a partnership between the US Forest Service Northern Research Station and the Pacific Southwest Research Station, Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests, Hui Aloha Kīholo, Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and community members. The goal is to strengthen our understanding of community-based stewardship and to create a resource that can strengthen community capacity to mālama ʻāina or steward the environment.  This is the first application of STEW-MAP in a rural community with a long history of indigenous and place-based stewardship.

To implement STEW-MAP on Hawaiʻi Island, we followed the protocol previously developed by Svendsen and Campbell (2008). The survey wording was tailored to reflect local site types and stewardship concepts.  Social network questions were expanded to ask about groups working on drought/fire and Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, which are local priorities. Mapping questions were adapted to protect sensitive areas and vulnerable species.  The survey was administered primarily online, but also on paper and in person when appropriate, from July 2017 – October 2017. There were two rounds of surveys. The first was for civic, non-profit, school and community-based groups (hereafter community groups) known to engage in stewardship (r=66).  The second round of surveys was sent to all the groups that the first round survey respondents named as their collaborators (who were not already surveyed). This included additional community groups (r=25) as well as government agencies and private organizations (r=63). The overall response rate was 40% (r=148).  This is the first STEW-MAP project to survey ʻalters’ (the groups named as collaborators by the first round of survey respondents).

Data analyses are still underway but preliminary results indicate that the community-based network of stewardship is profound, connected across districts and from montane to marine environments. Although the majority of the community groups that participated in the survey work with few staff and small budgets, they are well-connected collaborators across stewardship networks. Preliminary analyses also demonstrate that about one-third of the community groups surveyed engage in stewardship for reasons that are social, cultural, and familial, not just environmental.  For example, they see natural resources as cultural resources; and they engage in stewardship as a means to strengthen reciprocal relationships between people and place, intergenerational connectivity, and to move beyond stewardship to a kinship relationship with place. Foci of these groups include environment, education, restoration of land as well as cultural and place-based restoration, community improvement, and food. Analyses are expected to be completed in 2019 and the resulting database will show the many ways that people care for North Kona and South Kohala, Hawaiʻi. It will also become resource for community groups and partner agencies to effectively communicate and collaborate with each other, to identify opportunities to support community-based efforts, and to enhance the capacity of the stewards of our communities.


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Last modified: May 7, 2019