SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Earth Month is quickly approaching, but for the O'ahu Army Natural Resources Program (OANRP), which manages endangered species on O'ahu, the busiest part of protecting the Earth, here, on island, is nearing the end of the season -- specifically, the season for planting.
Putting over 3,500 plants in the ground this year, 2014-15 is one of the biggest outplanting seasons to date for the program. This annual effort throughout the winter months, when increased rainfall gives young plants a better chance at survival in the wild, is part of the program's goal to increase the numbers of endangered plants in the wild.
"The outplanting season is the 'Superbowl' of our year, because everything we do throughout the year always comes down to outplanting," said Kahale Pali, Natural Resource Management coordinator with OANRP. "All the weed control, all of the time spent checking fences to make sure they are keeping out pigs, spraying grass in the hot sun -- it all comes down to putting plants into the ground to ensure that we can stabilize these species."
The effort is part of a 20-year legacy, with OANRP growing and planting over 20,000 endangered plants since the program's inception in 1998.
-- Why are they endangered?
OANRP manages over 30 endangered plants on O'ahu, a large number for such a tiny island.
Over the course of O'ahu's five million-year evolutionary history, the isolated island rarely saw new plants reaching its shores, whether on the wings of birds, rolling in on the waves or blowing here in the wind (the three ways that "native" species made it to Hawai'i without the help of people).
The plants that now call the island home showed up about every 100,000 years, this isolation giving them lots of time to evolve into uniquely "O'ahuan" species.
-- Outplanting Season Highlights
Now extinct in the wild, Stenogyne kanehoana is one of the rarest species that OANRP manages.
With only two plants left in the wild, botanists with OANRP and the Nature Conservancy of Hawai'i were able to collect cuttings before they died. These cuttings grew roots and allowed staff to grow lots of clones, exact genetic replicas, of the wild plants in the OANRP rare plant nursery at Schofield Barracks.
Although never before seen in the wild, OANRP staff were also able to pollinate these nursery plants and collect fruit for the first time. However, the seed set for S. kanehoana so far is relatively low. Out of 20 seeds collected from two viable fruit, only two germinated successfully.
Nontheless, with repeated cloning of the two "parents" and the newly grown "keiki," staff were able to plant over a hundred plants of S. kanehoana, this year, throughout, in a new fenced unit at Lihu'e, a traditional Hawaiian place name for the land found at Schofield Barracks' West Range.
This year, 185 S. mariversa were planted at '?hikilolo, one of the last (and most steep) ridges on the leeward side of the Wai'anae mountains, framing the south side of M?kua Military Reservation.
Staff used ropes and carabineers to rappel to S. mariversa habitat to collect the fruit to grow the plants and add the newcomers from the nursery into the wild.
(Note: OANRP is part of the Directorate of Public Works, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.)
-- OANRP Earth Month Activities
Contact OANRP to become involved as a volunteer:
•April 4, Earth Day & Family Fun Fest at Weyland Field, Schofield Barracks;
•April 7, OANRP volunteer trip to Ka'ala;
•April 11, OARNP volunteer trip to Puali'i;
•April 22, Earth Day celebration at Kalakaua Community Center, SB;
•April 25, Fort Shafter Earth Day at Fort Shafter Flats; and
•April 30, OANRP volunteer trip to Palikea.
-- USAG-Hawaii Earth Month Activities
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii will be hosting numerous events for its fourth annual Earth Month celebration.
What began as a single day has evolved into a monthlong celebration with a wide variety of events for Soldiers and families to enjoy throughout the island of Oahu.
•April 4, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Fun Fest and Earth Day 2014, Weyand Field. This collaboration between the Directorate of Public Works (DPW) Environmental Division and the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation features exhibitors, games, environmental learning activities and live entertainment.
-At 8:45 a.m. Military Child Mile Fun Run to kick off the event; no registration required.
-At 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Games, activities, rides, inflatables and pictures with the Easter bunny with egg hunts as follows: ages 2-4 at 11:30 a.m.; ages 5-8 at 12 p.m.; and ages 9-12 at 12:30 p.m.
Enjoy entertainment provided by SKIES. Participate in "upcycling," crafts and coloring activities, artifacts search, sustainability and natural resources educational activities. Dine on seven food truck options. Enter to win the Leisure, Travel and Services' $500 gift card. Call (808) 655-0002.
•April 22, 2-5 p.m. Island Palm Communities and DPW Environmental Division team up on Earth Day at the Kalakaua Community Center, Schofield Barracks, for cool exhibits and fun activities while learning about the environment. Also, back by overwhelming demand, is the Earth Day Passport Challenge.
•April 22, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Pohakaloa Training Area is hosting an Earth Day event that is open to the public. It will showcase the work of the Natural Resources Office, Cultural/Archeological Resources Office and Fire/Emergency Services. Also, there will be a static display of military equipment. Call (808) 969-2403.
•April 25, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The Fort Shafter Flats parade field will serve as the location for the Earth Day Festival, hosted by the 9th Mission Support Command and 9th Theater Support Groups' Directorate of Public Works' Environmental Division. Call (808) 438-1600, extension 3307, for more details.