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New website connects volunteers to conservation groups

May 2, 2014 - 12:05am

Workers in the conservation field have noticed a shift in the last decade or so, says Lilha Noori, executive director of Hawaii Conservation Alliance.

It used to be, people involved in conservation efforts would come together for an annual conference and communicate with each other throughout the year.

“In the last 10 (years), the conservation world has changed to include the community and the public,” Noori said Wednesday.

To further those efforts, the Hawaii Conservation Alliance this week launched, what organization leaders hope will become the comprehensive, go-to site to find volunteer opportunities and conservation projects across the state.

“We’re hoping it starts a movement,” Noori said, adding she wants to see more people — residents and visitors — “getting their hands dirty” in conservation projects.

The website has an educational component, too, showcasing the state’s many natural area reserves and other areas where environmental and even cultural conservation efforts are happening. Noori said she hopes people take what they see on the website, and while volunteering, and use their newfound knowledge to advocate with the state’s policy makers for more environmental protections and more sound developmental practices.

About two years ago, alliance members began discussing the idea of increasing their social media and online presence. Some organizations had made forays into social media, Noori said, but the efforts and postings weren’t consistent. Officials decided to pursue one website to reach out to as many people as possible, and while they considered doing just an application for smart phones and tablets, Noori said they eventually realized that wouldn’t capture people checking for conservation information from a computer. They opted instead for a mobile-accessible website.

Once they had the idea in place, they spent time fundraising, getting help from within and outside Hawaii. Donors include the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Atherton Foundation, the Cooke Foundation, the Marisla Foundation, the Flora Foundation, Patagonia, and Hauoli Mau Loa Foundation.

“This is the first web site of its kind, uniting a wealth of information for people to get plugged into conservation efforts,” Noori said in a press release about the website’s launch. “There’s no better time than now for this web resource. Many people are aware of the need to protect and preserve Hawaii’s natural beauty and resources, and they want to invest time, money and talent. However, they often don’t know where the places are located, let alone have information about these areas and how they can help.”

The site allows users to search by type of activity, name of the event or group or location. Upcoming volunteer events, as well as community events, also will be listed.

Noori said searching by activity will be particularly helpful. For example, parents who want to take on invasive species removal as a family outing could search for that, or a teacher planning a field trip could look for sites that are home to native birds, if that is what the class is studying.

The site will be helpful for visitors to Hawaii, looking to participate in the growing “voluntourism” trend, as well as for state residents who want to pitch in with community projects while visiting another island.

Right now, about 60 groups and sites have signed on to the website. Eventually, officials said they would like to allow partner organizations to receive donations through the website.

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