Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Message for the Heʻeia National Estuarine Research Reserve Designation Ceremony

In Hawai‘i, protecting the environment is more than just a policy discussion; it is a way of life, embedded in the fabric of our culture and society. Hawaiʻi’s state motto- Ua Mau ke Ea o ka 'āina i ka Pono—serves as a guiding light for the Aloha State, and a reminder of the responsibility to preserve and protect the 'āina for generations to come. For generations, the Heʻeia ahupuaʻa served as a model of sustainability providing for all its community’s needs—from the fresh water running down the mountains, to the fertile land that provided nourishment, to the ponds in the ocean where keiki and ʻohana fished and played. The establishment of the Heʻeia National Estuarine Research Reserve serves to further protect and preserve this important piece of Hawaiʻi’s history and culture, and ensures generations to come are able to share in its abundance.

The 1,385-acre Heʻeia National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses upland forests and grasslands, wetlands, reefs and seagrass beds, as well as the largest sheltered body of water in the Hawaiian Island chain. Nestled within the calm, cool waters of Kāneʻohe Bay and resting under the breathtaking Koʻolau Mountains, the estuary is home to unique and diverse upland, estuarine, and marine habitats that protect important historic and cultural resources, including the beloved Heʻeia Fishpond. The Reserve supports unique wildlife, including the federally endangered Hawaiian stilt, moorhen, coot, duck, and hoary bat. Along with serving as a research center for scientists and decision makers, the Reserve will provide Hawaiʻi’s people of all ages unparalleled opportunities to explore and enjoy its natural beauty, learn about coastal shores, connect with the ʻāina,  and seek sustainable solutions found in the pages of history.

As part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), Heʻeia provides a biogeographic region not currently represented among the existing 28 NERRS sites. The federal-state partnership program is a model of community engagement and support bringing site partners, scientists, land management professionals, and educators together to understand coastal management issues and generate local, integrated solutions.  

Mahalo nui loa to all the federal, state and community partners, especially Koʻolaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club, Koʻolau Foundation, Paepae o He'eia, and Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi who have worked over many years to make the Heʻeia National Estuarine Research Reserve a reality.


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