First Wind, an independent U.S.-based renewable energy company, announced it has begun work on two areas in the West Maui hills that are designed to preserve the population of threatened or endangered seabirds on the island and potentially encourage their population growth.
Kahu Alika, long-time minister of Keawala`i Congregational Church in Makena on Maui, held a traditional Hawaiian blessing at the site yesterday afternoon.
“This is a unique program the like of which has never been done before in the wind industry. We’re proud to have worked with outstanding local and international partners to put in place a program that we hope will provide real benefits for these species for years to come.”
The Makamaka`ole seabird mitigation project is part of an extensive program undertaken by the company to provide conservation benefits to mitigate potential impacts of the Kaheawa Wind projects several miles away. As part of the company’s innovative Habitat Conservation Plan for its two Kaheawa Wind projects on Maui, First Wind is constructing two fenced enclosures to protect the federally endangered Hawaiian Petrel and threatened Newell’s Shearwater, two native Hawaiian seabirds. The enclosures are located about ten miles west of Wailuku.
Once completed, the enclosures will each encompass between four and five acres and will feature barriers intended to keep non-native predators, such as rats, mongoose and cats, out of the habitat. In addition, each enclosure will contain specific features designed to attract shearwaters and petrels to nest, including artificial burrows, custom decoys and a sound system that broadcasts shearwater and petrel calls.
“We are very hopeful that this program will help promote the recovery of these rare native species in West Maui,” said Dave Cowan, First Wind’s vice president for environmental affairs. “This is a unique program the like of which has never been done before in the wind industry. We’re proud to have worked with outstanding local and international partners to put in place a program that we hope will provide real benefits for these species for years to come.”
The plan was designed in conjunction with a number of research experts who have had success designing and implementing similar bird conservation areas elsewhere. First Wind worked with EcoWorks, a New Zealand-based environmental consultant, SWCA Environmental Consultants based in Honolulu, the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Hawaii Natural Areas Reserve System, the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change, which has implemented similar programs to protect species there, David Ainley, an internationally recognized seabird expert and Feral Animal Removal Experts LLC.