KEALAKEKUA — Climate change, invasive species, water pollution, chemical herbicides and soil degradation all threaten to change the environment of the west side of the Big Island.
But it’s not too late to learn how to fix that.
The Konawaena High School Leo Club has partnered with the Kona Soil and Water Conservation District to raise awareness of soil conservation within the community.
As part of the project, the Leo Club has done several tree plantings this school year and has put together packets on the five main concerns for soil conservation. The packets have been mailed out to 100 businesses, including local coffee farms, to educate private landowners.
“We thought it would be good to preserve the land we have for future generations,” Leo Club president Megan Baguso said. “And with all the issues like climate change and everything, I felt like we could help with that.”
Kona Soil and Water Conservation District board member Jeff Knowles visited with the Leo Club in June to give a presentation on soil conservation, and the Leo Club was quick to jump on board with the mission.
“We have a message that we believe most people aren’t aware of, and that’s the fragility of our landscapes,” Knowles said. “And the Kona landscape is one of our more fragile landscapes anywhere in the world and, quite honestly, our soils are extremely fragile and people aren’t aware of it. I guess the goal is to get people to be aware, and getting involved in the schools was one step.”
Some of the concerns the Kona Soil and Water Conservation District and the Leo Club have about Kona’s soil and water resources is the use of herbicides to kill weeds, which pollutes the ground and surface water; invasive species destroying restoration and conservation efforts, and unprotected soil that will result in soil erosion during storms and rain showers.
The Leo Club detailed the solutions that people in the community can do to protect the soil and ground water further in their flyers. The flyers are available online at kswcd.org.
Also available is a guide to what native plants can be planted at various elevations and climate zones on the island.
“It’s really kind of idiot proof and people don’t go to Lowe’s and see something that says ‘Native Hawaiian Plant’ but the plant needs a rainforest and they live at 50-foot elevation,” Kona Soil and Conservation District board member Mary Robblee said. “The kids did really well putting all the concepts on to one, single page.”
One of the tree plantings the Leo Club has done to ensure soil conservation was at Konawaena Elementary School.
“They were trying to cover up the bare soil they had, so we did plantings of ti leaf and other native plants,” Leo Club vice president Shayla Sayphone said.
Knowles said the Kona Soil and Water Conservation District is “impressed” with the enthusiasm the Leo Club has put toward the project.
“Our club works to help the community,” Sayphone said. “This is a very important part of our community that we need Kona to be aware of so we can preserve our land.”