Updated: November 25, 2022
Nature lovers can celebrate Giving Tuesday on Nov. 30 by exploring the remarkable Hawai‘i Natural Area Reserves System in an online tour and then making an online donation to help preserve these unique and special places.
The online donation portal is a first for the Hawaiʻi State Department of Land and Natural Resources’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife. It provides an alternative way to experience and support natural areas.
The new interactive tour showcases the 23 Natural Area Reserve System (NARS) sites across Hawaiʻi. These lands and waters contain the state’s most diverse and unique ecosystems and geological features.
The reserves range from the world’s only glaciated tropical alpine lake atop Mauna Kea to oceanic and coastal environments, such as anchialine pools.
NARS also include tropical rainforests of towering trees alive with brightly colored birds, or strange stunted forests of “bonsai” ʻōhiʻa trees hundreds of years old but growing only knee-high. NARS units are home to numerous rare and endemic plants and animals, like the ʻakohekohe bird, whose striking head feathers resemble the ʻōhiʻa lehua flowers that it lives among.
While the reserves are generally open, many are seldom visited because they are incredibly remote, steep and rugged. The online tour provides the chance to explore the beauty of the state’s most rarely seen and pristine features.
The NARS seeks to protect both endangered species and the ecosystems they rely on. The reserves have the highest levels of protection in the state to ensure current and future generations can continue to experience these incredible places that make Hawaiʻi so unique.
Donations made through the portal are deposited into a state trust fund to support conservation actions in the Natural Area Reserves, including planting native trees or removing invasive species.
“When we lose our native species, there is also a cultural loss of knowledge and experience that has enriched generations of people” said Emma Yuen, manager of the Native Ecosystems Protection and Management Program. “Many of these lands have been regarded as sacred for centuries; and it is an honor to work to protect them from further loss. The donation feature allows anyone the chance to meaningfully join in the protection of what makes Hawaiʻi so strikingly precious.”
In-person volunteer opportunities have been rare in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The online tour and donation system provide an alternative way for individuals to learn more about these areas and support local conservation work.
For those interested in donating as a gift in someone’s name, gift cards featuring native landscapes and species can be downloaded. People interested in taking the online tour and using the donation tool can click here.