A new grant will be used to support resiliency efforts in three nature refuges and parks on Maui.

The Hawaii Land Trust is looking to hire more than 40 survivors of the Aug. 8 Maui wildfires to help take care of nature refuges on the island.

The nonprofit land trust has received $1.1 million from the Hawaii Community Foundation to create 48 temporary jobs for unemployed fire survivors that can bolster the organization’s land conservation projects.

The trust, in partnership with environmental education nonprofit Kupu, plans to hire 40 field workers at $18 per hour and eight supervisors at $20 per hour. The jobs also come with benefits, partially covered by Kupu and AmeriCorps, the national service organization.

The program will restore fish ponds, clear invasive plants and replant native species at three community reserves owned by the trust, including a refuge in Wahie’e, Nu’u Refuge in Kaupo and Veterans Peace Park in Wailuku.

The Hawaii Land Trust is hoping to hire dozens of fire victims to help with conservation efforts on Maui under a grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation. (Hawaii Land Trust photo)

Olu Campbell, HILT president and CEO, said although the positions start in December and end in May, his organization is exploring how to extend the program to help survivors and expand the nonprofit’s conservation efforts.

“All these lands that were once plantations and have since gone fallow, it just seems more relevant than ever to have people in our community who know how to do proper land stewardship, so that we can mitigate these types of risks in the future,” he said.

The hiring process will prioritize fire victims who lost their homes or businesses. However, the organization will accept applications from any affected resident.

Campbell stressed that the jobs also come with many indirect benefits.

“It’s a combination of these experiences on the land that are hopefully helpful for people to heal, to provide them an income, and hopefully provide an opportunity for them to pick up green workforce skills that they might not have otherwise had the opportunity to develop,” he said.

During the pandemic, HILT launched a similar project that hired 42 Maui residents for six weeks. That project was funded by the federal CARES Act.

He noted that one of those temporary employees later joined HILT as lead steward at its Waihe’e refuge.

Under the budget proposal HILT submitted to HCF, nearly $1 million will be used for wages. The rest will pay for tools and personal protection equipment, transportation and administrative costs.

The grant falls within the foundation’s resiliency phase funding, Campbell said.

Hawaii Land Trust formed when four different land trusts combined in 2011. It oversees the conservation and stewardship of 21,650 acres of land in Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island.

“We recognize that there’s a beneficial reciprocal relationship between our people and our place,” said Campbell. “And when we nurture and strengthen that relationship, our people will be healthier and our lands will be healthier.”

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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