Scott Fisher

Protecting the areas where we live, love, and build communities

  Protecting the Wao Kanaka: The Role of Hawaiian Islands Land Trust While there are a number of conservation organizations dedicated to the preservation of Hawai’i’s most pristine and remote areas, the Land Trust’s focus is on protecting the areas where people regularly connect with nature.

When the first Polynesians arrived in Hawai’i extensive forests stretched across virtually every island. They set about utilizing these natural resources to foster a strong and healthy community. Although these early settlers initiated significant changes to the landscape, their cultural paradigm of cooperation and reciprocity governed their interactions with both the human and natural world. These ideas of reciprocity and cooperation are embodied in the idea of aloha ‘aina, or love of land.

Expressed in a variety of ways, this connection was often described through the distinction between the wao kanaka and the wao akua. The wao kanaka constituted the lands, particularly the forested lands (wao), most accessible to the community and therefore providing the bulk of the material culture the Hawaiian people (kanaka) relied upon. Because of its critical importance to the life and well being of the community, caring for and conserving these resources became a critical part of Hawaiian culture. And, since human activity was most extensive in this region, the wao kanaka across Hawai’i is most marked by the evidence of past generations.

The wao akua (or forest of the gods) consisted of land not easily accessible by humans. As one author points out, Hawaiians understood the wao akua as a source of supernatural activity, remote, difficult to penetrate, and awesome. While excursions to the wao akua were relatively rare, it was in this realm that koa logs were harvested to become the canoes which united the various islands. It was also the place where forest bird feathers were collected to make the stunning capes worn by the ali‘i. For anyone who has spent time in the misty reaches of the wao akua, its power and influence does not soon leave you. Much important conservation work is taking place in the wao akua, with organizations HILT works closely and collaboratively with including the various watershed partnerships, the state of Hawai’i, and The Nature Conservancy.

HILT has protected some lands in the wao akua, but the bulk of our protected lands lie below. The wao kanaka, the areas where humans live, love, laugh and build strong communities, is where we cultivate our sense of aloha ‘aina. Conservation in these areas— through protection of agricultural lands, the cultural and historical sites that tell our stories, and our most threatened ecosystems—is vital to how we as a modern society continue to connect with the natural world. It is where we, as a community, must put our beliefs about our relationship to the land into action.

HILT receives eco-award from Sunset magazine

Our own Scott Fisher receives top honor in Sunset's 2012 Environmental Awards

A "Hero" amoung us...

We were thrilled to find this message in our inbox—best Aloha Friday email ever!

"Congratulations! Sunset magazine has named Scott Fisher as one of the winners of our 2012 Environmental Awards, which are featured in the March, 2012 issue of Sunset. Scott has been named Sunset's 2012 Environmental Hero Under the Age of 40."

The email from Sunset's Editor-at-Large, Peter Fish, went on to tell us a bit about the panel of judges and that competition was fierce between the hundreds of entries they recieved. Mr. Fish ended with "I speak for everyone at our magazine in saying that Sunset is enormously impressed by the work Scott Fisher and the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust is doing."

Needless to say, cheers rang out through the office.

This is a great honor for a Hawaii-based conservationist and the work of our Land Trust. Get the full story on Scott, HILT's director of conservation, and the rest of the inspiring award-winners in Sunset's March issue, on newsstands now or online. Do take a moment to read through these amazing testaments to the passionate work of conservation-minded folks across the West. Great things are happening in land protection, and Hawaiian Islands Land Trust is right there on the front line.

We'll print more information on the award in our upcoming issue of ‘Umeke Ka‘eo, due out later this month. If you do not receive our newsletter and would like to, let us know here.

BBTB 2012 Live Auction Package: Waihe‘e by Moonlight: Guided Hike & Dinner


Waihe‘e by Moonlight: Guided Hike & Dinner, up to 12 people Waihe‘e by Moonlight: Guided Hike & Dinner Auction Package to Benefit Hawaiian Islands Land TrustAn unforgettable way to celebrate a special birthday or the simple beauty of friendship, your private Waihe‘e Refuge experience includes watching the moonrise, exploration by guided night hike, and a catered dinner. Along the easy 2-mile path, MCLT’s project manager Scott Fisher discusses the ancient Hawaiian fishing village of Kapoho while sharing history, lore, and chicken-skin stories. Return to a fun spread of gourmet campfire fare.

Total Value: Priceless Buy now for $2,200

Donors: Hawaiian Islands Land Trust

This package is a part of the 2012 "Buy Back the Beach" Benefit Lu‘au "Adventures for the ‘Aina" Live Auction.

Hawaiian Islands Land Trust is a nationally accredited nonprofit organization with the mission of "protecting the lands that sustain us." By working to increase conservation land across Hawai`i we ensure the protection of coastal shoreline accesses and recreation areas, native ecosystems and habitats, culturally significant lands, and agricultural lands for our working farms and ranches—all for our use and enjoyment today and for all generations to come. For more details on the organization and our protected lands contact us at (808)244-5263 or