I Have Never Been Convinced There's Anything Inherently Wrong With Having Fun - George Plimpton

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If there ever was anyone who epitomized those words, in our opinion here at HILT, it would be Peter Merriman. The restaurateur, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and all-around-great-guy, has been an important part of the HILT ohana for a long time. His commitment to land conservation and Hawaii’s sustainability will be honored on September 22nd at HILT’s E Malama Aina Kakou benefit event where he will be named our 2018 Kahu o ka Aina. We look forward to celebrating Peter and his contributions to Hawaii. In preparing for the event, Peter shared with us one of the reasons he’s a HILT fan.

George Plimpton has always been one of my idols. Plimpton was a “participating journalist.” He conducted orchestras, played for a few weeks in the NFL and did a few acting stints so that he could write about the experience.

Not only does that sound fun, but Plimpton got to be in proximity to the elite in their field, as they practiced their craft. (He even pitched in a baseball game with the teams managed by Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays!)

These are special moments for me, when I see the best of the best, engrossed in their passion.

This was my feeling recently upon entering the HILT Maui office in Iao. Parked on the kitchen counter were four PVC tubes, about 3” in diameter and 5 feet long, closed at each end. Upon inquiring with Dr. Scott Fisher, HILT’s Associate Executive Director of Conservation, I was treated to an in-depth explanation of the intricacies of core samples! This is the bomb!

Weeks later, I ran into The Good Doctor again and asked how his trip to England had been. Little did I know, the purpose of that trip was to analyze those same core samples taken from HILT’s Nuu and Waihee properties. From these samples, Scott was able to learn: that man arrived in Waihee over 1,000 years ago; that slash-and-burn agriculture was used; and it’s quite possible that large flocks of waterbirds co-existed with those early Hawaiians

Above from left to right: James Crowe, HILT’s Land Steward, extracting the sediment samples; the sediment collected; and a slide image of pollen collected from one of the sediment samples from Waihee. The pollen is from Pritchardia (Loulu) probably dating to before humans arrived on Maui.

That’s my version of George Plimpton. Getting to hear Scott wax on the history of Hawaii, her people and ecosystems, and how he applies science to these areas of interest.

The HILT website has the schedule for Talk Story on the Land. Whether you were born here or have just arrived, you’ll be certain to learn something. You’ll feel more connected to the land as well.

Do your own George Plimpton thing and be certain to attend a “Talk Story on the Land”.  Even if you have already been to the Waihee Preserve or Nuu, go again. This time you’ll get to tag along with HILT’s Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays as he expounds the beautiful surroundings in a way that can be found no where else.

See you at Waihee!

Aloha, Peter

Doing Good by Doing Better: Getting Corporate Social Responsibility Right in Hawaii

To do good, you actually have to do something.”  Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia

If you are like me, you pay attention to the places you shop and the products you buy. Happily, we are not alone. 87% of consumers today flex their economic muscle by supporting companies whose values are closely aligned with their own. We “buy local” and support small businesses, we opt for products with less packaging, we choose products with a “give-back” message – and retailers are paying attention.

Companies are not naïve to consumers’ desire to be responsible with their buying practices. They have adjusted by adopting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a strategy to grow profitability by increasing brand loyalty and implementing cost-saving innovations. Companies use an accounting framework called the “triple bottom line” that measures business performance on a broader scale than just the profit margin. It examines and monetizes a company’s impact on people, the planet, and profitability. Over 90% of G250 companies offer CSR reports – a testament that CSR is here to stay.

The business of business is improving the state of the world.”
Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO Salesforce

In a series of Freakonomics podcasts, economist Steve Dubner recently discussed CSR. One facet of CSR specifically resonated with me: CSR may further increase a company’s revenues by attracting more qualified, productive, and loyal employees.

I see the reality of this trend every day in my work with representatives of successful local companies whose values align with our own. As we work to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with these companies, I have been enthralled by the drive, commitment and professionalism that their employees add to their corporate philanthropic mission.

For example, you could walk into any one of Peter Merriman’s restaurants and every employee, from busboy to VP, will actively embody the Merriman’s “do the right thing” motto. The same goes for the giving cultures created by local business partners like Chad Goodfellow’s Goodfellow Bros, Danny Boren’s Skyline Eco-Adventures, and Tim Lara’s Hawaiian Paddle Sports. I’ve seen, through countless volunteer days, that our local employees are the vehicle by which these companies not only talk-the-talk, but walk-the-walk. Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers is one of the fastest growing real estate companies in Hawaii. Again, good companies attract good people, and co-founders Matt Beall’s and Winston Welborn’s philanthropic drive, in my opinion, inspire a holistic dedication to the corporate mission. What a company stands for appeals to customers and employees, alike. Proactive CSR practices and communications are crucial to remaining competitive across markets.

The culture of philanthropy and malama aina (caring for the environment) is strong in Hawaii nei and HILT is proud of, and grateful to, our corporate partners for taking a stand. These alliances create rippling effects throughout our communities, allowing HILT’s conservation message to reach people we couldn’t have touched on our own.  We try to do good here at HILT, and that extra layer of support from our partners help us to do even better. Mahalo piha to our partners and their employees, and even more to our communities who continue to hold us all to the triple bottom line.

If you’d like to learn more about HILT and our partners, visit our Corporate Giving page, which discusses a variety of ways in which we work together to achieve our shared mission of land conservation.

--Angela M. Britten, Director of Development

Ka Leo O Ka Aina - Iulai 2018

Message from the Land - July 2018

HILT continues to protect the lands that sustain us with a variety of exciting conservation projects on the horizon.


Waikapu, Maui

HILT is working with the Waikapu Country Town project to ensure the permanent protection of 800-acres of Central Maui’s prime agricultural lands currently being cultivated by small diversified farm operations.


Keanae, Maui

HILT has been awarded $210,000 from the State Legacy Land grant program and is in the process of securing the matching funds to protect the largest single property on the Keanae peninsula. The 6-acre property contains over 36 traditional taro loi including loi associated with chief Keanae.


Kilauea, Kauai

HILT is working with the landowners of the popular Wai Koa Loop Trail in Kilauea, Kauai to preserve public access to the scenic trail and destination areas including the historic Stone Dam. This trail easement will be a first for Hawaii!


Waianae, Oahu

HILT is collaborating with The Trust for Public Land and MAO Organic Farms in the acquisition and protection of 21-acres in Waianae to expand MAO’s popular farm and youth leadership program.


 Hilo, Hawaii

The land trust is working with a landowner in Hilo, Hawaii to protect over 800 acres of native ohia and koa forest including habitat for our native forest birds.

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 Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge Update:

Maui County permits have been approved for the repair work of the roadway at Waihee and repairs will be underway soon! Mahalo nui loa to Thorne Abbott of Coastal Planners, LLC, Goodfellow Brothers, Walker Industries for their support in getting the Waihee roadway repaired!   


Conservation Innovation: Easier Easement Tracking With New Software

The main tool a land trust uses to preserve land is a conservation easement. This is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that allows a landowner set aside a parcel of land for conservation purposes – not urbanization – in perpetuity.

HILT works with landowners to protect areas with the highest conservation potential across all of our values - scenic views, agricultural resources, wildlife habitats, water resource areas, cultural and historical values, and outdoor recreation opportunities. As you can imagine, tracking these six values across our 43 conservation easements spanning nearly 18,000 acres requires a lot from our small field team.

There's always paper. Lots and lots of paper, from the signed easement document itself, to the communications, reports, summaries, and negotiations leading to the agreement. Then there’s the annual monitoring, activity approvals, enforcement actions, changes in ownership, and interpretations that follow the agreement. And, over time, these documents would get stuffed into folders and binders sitting on a shelf or locked away in a cabinet.

I often commiserated with stewards from other land trusts, who were facing similar pain points. Many of us had resorted to developing our own small-scale, custom databases when the market did not meet our needs to ensure the highest quality easement oversight.

Enter Landscape, a cloud-based land conservation software that is innovative beyond our individual systems. Now, HILT joins fifty other land trusts in streamlining easement monitoring activities with Landscape’s mapping capabilities, multi-user functionality, and integration with our current contact database and cloud file system. With a name like Landscape and features to match our multiple, varied conservation needs, it figures that the software developer was a former, fellow land trust professional.

The multi-user functionality is one of the most important features of the software. The number of easements we manage is growing and the work is becoming more than a single individual can manage. Tracking all of our projects in a single database will ensure a faster, more accurate and unified reported status of activities across the state.

HILT has already begun migrating to Landscape and hopes to be fully integrated by the year's end. While it may seem like a small tweak to our easement infrastructure, this technology positions HILT to respond to the growing urgency to protect even more lands from urbanization across Hawaii, while shrinking our filing cabinets in the process.

--James Crowe, Land Steward

Conservation tools like Landscape are part of the everyday costs of long-term conservation. Your support for our annual fund helps staff like James access the best possible tools to achieve the mission that we all share – to protect the lands that sustain us. Please consider supporting our everyday conservation activities through an annual gift to HILT.

Hawaiian Islands Land Trust Appoints Courtenay O’Connor as Associate Executive Director of Advancement

Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (“HILT”) announced today that Courtenay O’Connor has been appointed as its new Associate Executive Director of Advancement. O’Connor will be responsible for HILT’s overall fundraising and development program and building a culture of philanthropy for the organization. “We are very pleased to welcome Courtenay to the land trust and are excited to expand our fundraising program to keep up with the demand for our land conservation initiatives here in Hawaii,” said Kawika Burgess, HILT’s Chief Executive Officer.


O’Connor comes to HILT from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) of Hawaii where she served as the Senior Associate Director of Philanthropy. Prior to working at TNC, Courtenay served in various capacities at CCS, LLC an international strategic fundraising firm, where she planned and managed several successful fundraising campaigns. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Vermont, and a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University.


“HILT has done a lot of great work here in Hawaii by working with landowners and conserving over 18,000 acres of Hawaii’s most precious natural and cultural resources. I look forward to the opportunity to grow the organization’s fundraising efforts which will allow the land trust to do even more conservation work,” said O’Connor.