We're Hiring!




Hawaiian Islands Land Trust is currently looking for an experienced Executive Assistant and Office Administrator. This position will play an integral role in the organizational strength of our nonprofit land trust. The Executive Assistant will provide administrative management support to the Chief Executive Officer, manage the Oahu office, assist the Development Director in donor communications and gift processing, assist the Chief Conservation Officer with communications, and answer and respond to calls and emails. Qualified candidates will have impeccable verbal and written communication skills, experience managing an office, experience managing schedules and competing demands of an executive, attention to detail, a proactive, self-driven work style, and will work well with the team.


●      Schedule meetings and coordinate the calendar of the CEO, and assist in managing communications of the CEO

●      Create and manage an organizational calendar

●      Assist in database management in coordination with the Director of Development to include gift entry and data management utilizing the organization’s CRM software

●      Assist the Chief Conservation Officer with schedule management and meeting follow-up

●      Coordinate staff meetings and consistent communication and collaboration of staff

●      Record dictation of staff to the database, following meetings, and conduct meeting follow-up

●      Conduct clerical duties, including filing, answering general phone calls, responding to general emails, expense reports, and preparing documents

●      Monitor and maintain office equipment; inventory supplies and order replacement supplies as needed

●      Create, update, and maintain personnel records, financial records, and other records/data

●      Perform accounting tasks, including invoicing, budget tracking, coordination with the organization’s book keeper, and making deposits

●      Assist with travel arrangements for office staff

●      Monitor incoming and outgoing mail; receive and sign for mail/packages from couriers and deliver to proper recipient

●      Prepare correspondence, documentation, and presentation materials

●      Take notes at meetings and prepare minutes

●      Coordinate volunteers to help with administrative tasks as needed

●      If the candidate is skilled in design/layout, the job responsibilities can be expanded to include design and production of outreach materials


●      High school diploma; associate’s or bachelor’s degree in business, administration, or related field experience

●      Significant experience in office administration/management, executive assistant experience preferred but not required

●      Proficient computer skills, including Microsoft Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel), Google Drive and Google Docs, and a CRM software; scheduling appointments/updating online calendars a must; website maintenance a plus.

●      Highly organized multi-tasker who works well in a fast-paced environment

●      Willingness to learn and to grow with the nonprofit

●      Excellent written and verbal communication skills

●      Absolute accuracy and attention to details

●      Complete confidentiality and discretion, sound judgement

●      Demonstrated strategic thinking and initiative; self-starter and self-directed

●      Believes in the land conservation mission of Hawaiian Islands Land Trust

●      Familiarity with Hawaiian language and Hawaii’s history and land use is an added strength

●      Design and layout skills are an added strength

Qualified applicants are asked to submit their cover letter and resume by email no later than June 15.

Ka Moolelo o Waihee: Ke kumu o ka aina

The Story of Waihe’e: The source of the land

Walking along the coast of the Waihee Refuge today, listening to the sounds of the wind that the kupuna called Ka makani kili oopu, a 1.6 million year old story unfolds beneath your feet.  In some ways this story is the story of the entire Hawaiian archipelago, but there are some twists to this story that combine to make Waihee unique.  While humans have only walked this land for just over a thousand years, the geological forces that shaped Waihee are written in broad strokes across the entire landscape. 

The mountain that rises up from the refuge, variously known as Mauna Kahalawai, Puu Kukui, and sometimes simply the West Maui Mountains, is a geologically young 1.6 million years old.  Haleakala, visible across Kahului Bay, by comparison is a geological infant at a mere 1.2 million years old.  It is important to note, however, that the ages used to date these volcanoes, which geologists simply call shield volcanoes, are dated to the time when they reached their peak in height.  In reality, Mauna Kahalawai and Haleakala stopped growing 1.6 million years and 1.2 million years ago respectively.  Both mountains were undoubtedly substantially higher at their peak, but millennia of erosion has reduced their height, and on Mauna Kahalawai in particular, there are deeply incised large valleys where streams flow to the ocean today.  At the edge of the Refuge, the Waihee Stream flows into the ocean at a rate of about 15 million gallons each day. 

What gives the Waihee Refuge one of its most unique characteristics are the sand dunes that surround it, creating a hollow of sorts, a feature that contributed to the Hawaiian name for this area, Kapoho, or the hollow.  If Mauna Kahalawai is defined today by the erosion that shaped its many valleys, Kapoho is defined by these sand dunes.  These dunes, which geologists refer to as Aeolian, or wind-blown dunes, are the result of the power of the ice ages.  Typically, most of us do not think of ice ages as shaping these islands which lie in the northern tropics.  However, Waihee is a testament to the power of these frigid epochs to shape and transform landscapes even thousands of miles distant from the glaciers that shaped North America. 

Two ice ages are notable in the geological formation of Maui, Mauna Kahalawai, and Waihee.  The first occurred when Haleakala had recently completed its shield building phase and probably rose to an elevation between 12 and 14 thousand feet occurred approximately 1.2 million years ago. This glacial period occurred during the middle of the last geological time period, the Pleistocene, and was particularly severe.  With vast volumes of water captured in the northern hemispheres ice caps, sea levels around all of Hawaii dropped hundreds of feet; so much in fact, that the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lana’i and Kahoolawe became one massive island.  So large, that this massive island, known colloquially as Maui Nui (or great Maui), was approximately 20% larger than Hawaii Island is today.  The massive size of Maui Nui accounts for Maui’s incredible biodiversity, as large islands, unsurprisingly, capture the largest number of species flying (or floating) over the vast Pacific Ocean.  Little remains to be seen of this powerful ice age in Waihee today, but the signature of the next glacial period, quite literally surrounds the Waihee Refuge.

After a long period of a relatively warm global climate, approximately 21,000 years ago the earth, and the northern hemisphere in particular, went through another intense period of glaciation.  Known as the late Pleistocene ice age, and more specifically, the Wisconsin period of glaciation. Sea levels around Hawaii dropped approximately 300-400 feet.  Kahoolawe remained independent of Maui Nui island during this period, suggesting a less intense ice age than the previous glacial period.  However, because the fringing reef system in front of the Waihee Refuge had built up for well over a million years, its exposure and disintegration over the next 10,000 or so years created the sand that built up and formed the dunes that would, many millennia later, come to be called Mauna Ihi. 

Remnants of these dunes once extended from Kalaekahoomano, the point directly above the Waihee stream, through Wailuku around Kahului nearly to Waikapu. The dunes that once covered much of Maui’s central valley remained a prominent feature of the landscape, a testament of the power of ice ages to impact landscapes thousands of miles to the south.  While anthropogenic modifications have dramatically changed the landscape, in her travel journal English explorer and travel writer Isabella Bird described her travels between Wailuku and Haiku in 1873 as a trip through a “mini Sahara Desert.” Today, the 200 foot dunes of the Waihee Refuge are the last unmodified reminder of earths last glacial maximum.

Another striking reminder of the power of natural phenomenon to shape and carve the landscape comes when standing at Kalaekahoomano above Waihee stream, looking north west along the Kahakuloa coast.  The cliffs along this rugged coast are a reminder of the fragility of Hawaiian shield volcanoes.  For many decades, geologists have known that Hawaiian shield volcanoes are prone to what is sometimes described as ‘flank failure.’  Simply put, massive chunks of the volcanoes that make up Hawaiian volcanoes will shear off into the ocean.  The 300-400 foot cliffs along the Kahakuloa coast seem to be evidence of flank failure.  With the collapse of a portion of the mountain, the tsunami this event generated would have been catastrophic for any living (flightless) creature in Waihee.  Although no estimate of the volume of this catastrophic event has been calculated, by comparison, the massive flank failure on the island of Molokai approximately 1.5 million years ago, generated a wave estimated at a height of over 1,900 feet.  While the Kahakuloa flank collapse would have been substantially smaller than that, the numerous water worn rocks that line the coast of approximately half of the Waihee Refuge are a reminder of the intensity of these catastrophic events. 

Finally, as Mauna Kahalawai aged and eroded, the power of water became more prominent across the landscape.  While most of that water seeped into the basin that makes up the Waihee stream, a smaller, but substantial portion of that water flows underground, and emerges in springs along the coast.  While one large spring was located at the base of the sand dunes, numerous smaller springs are located within Kapoho, surrounded by the dunes, and these springs collectively make up the 27 acres of wetlands in the heart of the Waihee Refuge. 

Volcanoes, sea levels ebbing and flowing, flank collapses and the slow power of water each in their own way have come to create and shape this land that we have loved and cared for over the past decade and a half — an insignificant point in the great tapestry of time.  Understanding these geological processes is a reminder of our connection to the land, and how truly small we are within the vast scope of the history of the land. He alii ka aina, he kauwa ke kanaka (the land is the chief, and people are its servants), never rings more true than when we understand our place on the landscape.

— Dr. Scot Fisher

Hawaiian Islands Land Trust Appoints Laura Kaakua as New President and Chief Executive Officer

Hawaiian Islands Land Trust announced today that Laura Kaakua will be appointed as its new President and Chief Executive Officer starting in March 2019.  Kaakua will be replacing Kāwika Burgess who will transition to HILT’s Board of Advisors and lead HILT’s development campaign. “We are very pleased to welcome Laura to the land trust and are excited with the level of land conservation experience that she brings to HILT. The land trust is in a great position to ensure that the most significant natural and cultural resources on each district on each island are protected for future generations,” said Jonathan Scheuer, HILT’s Board Chairman.

Laura Kaakua from TPL.jpg

Kaakua is a graduate of the University of Hawaiʻi William S. Richardson School of Law, and has extensive land conservation experience having spent the last 9 years serving as the Aloha ʻĀina Project Manager at The Trust for Public Land.  She has also been a lecturer at the William S. Richardson School of Law and served as a Law Clerk for the Honorable Greg Nakamura in the Third Circuit Court. Kaakua is an alakaʻi of hālau hula Nā Pualei o Likolehua, a volunteer with Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana, and served as a committee member of the Access to Justice Commission.

“HILT has worked with communities and landowners across Hawaiʻi to conserve over 18,000 acres of our most precious lands — from native forests, to ranch pastures, to coastal wetlands. I am grateful and excited to build upon the organization’s previous success, and continue to protect Hawaiʻi’s special natural places,” said Kaakua.

“I’d like to share my deepest mahalo to Laura for her extraordinary years at The Trust for Public Land’s Hawaiian Islands office, and congratulations to HILT for choosing such a promising leader,” said Lea Hong, The Trust for Public Land’s Hawaiian Islands State Director.  “Laura has shaped and led our Aloha ‘Āina Program, collaborating with Native Hawaiian communities across Hawai‘i nei to conserve lands that re-connect people to land and their culture.  I have no doubt that HILT will benefit from her talents and wish her the best of luck.”

“I am grateful to Lea and all of my Trust for Public Land colleagues and community partners for their incredible work over the years and for their support today. I look forward to partnering with The Trust for Public Land and other organizations and agencies to further our shared goals,” Kaakua said.

Making the Case for Conservation: Fundraising for Our Future

Eighteen years ago, a group of concerned community members organized a collaborative effort to save a coastal area from becoming a private resort. They successfully saved what is now known as the Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge. Today, the 277-acre Refuge is critical native plant and wildlife habitat, a nature preserve where families recreate and recharge, an outdoor classroom to thousands of local students annually, and a sanctuary to several heiau. Upon visiting the Refuge, the specialness of the place can be physically felt.  The loi kalo ia here produced enough taro and fish to feed thousands. Queen Kaahumanu was known to visit here, as her parents lived here for a time. King Kamehameha the Great, with Liholiho, reconsecrated the Kealakaihonua heiau here, an act that fortified the strength of his kingdom. Off the coast, the extensive reef is one of the longest and widest on Maui. If one were to pause to reflect on the area’s history, one might wonder if that specialness would have been as palpable if the Refuge had become a private luxury resort. If the wetlands had been replaced by tennis courts and swimming pools, and the goddess Haumea’s sacred dunes bulldozed for hotel rooms, restaurants, and spas, would we still feel the magic of the land?

The group of people that organized to save Waihee Refuge, who became the Maui Coastal Land Trust (who later merged with neighbor island land trusts to become HILT) and the extended community that supported their efforts were reacting to an immediate threat to a beloved place. They may not have known it at the time, but these actions had lasting impacts that united people in an effort to preserve land in perpetuity. Communities will be benefit from their actions long after you and I are gone. These people were visionary.

However, the reason Waihee is what it is today is due to the sustained support of the community over the last eighteen years. They may have initially responded to the call of an immediate threat, but their determination remained long after Waihee was saved.

There are few causes you can support where the actions you take will benefit people today as well as decades or centuries from now. Environmental causes, specifically land trusts, are among those making the promise of perpetuity.

Beyond the obvious health benefits of clean water and clean air, support for environmental causes can provide additional benefits such as improved mental health, lower crime, and a stronger economy. And yet, government, foundation, and individual support for the environment and climate change adaptation are still achingly low. Generational shifts in giving and increased awareness of human impact and damage, are making environmental causes the fastest growing nonprofit sector in the United States. However, environmental nonprofits are among the lowest funded charitable causes, receiving just 3% of all giving.

Islands in the Pacific are at the highest risk for climate change related devastation. Flooding, erosion, stronger and increased storm activity, and hotter relative temperatures are all things that we, in Hawaii, are seeing and feeling right now. In 2018, we saw the people of Hawaii come together quickly and generously to help those suffering from a number of environmental disasters. Lava flows and flooding destroyed homes and displaced entire communities.

But when the message is not as urgent, the need not as immediate, when the call to action is to prepare beyond today, how do we respond? Environmental nonprofits have a difficult task in helping donors feel the same present urgency for protecting habitat and cultural land as they do when disaster strikes.

Considering the role of the nonprofit in making the case for support: are we communicating the right message in the way to the right people?

For the most part, fundraisers divide themselves into two methods of messaging. The first maintains that we should use the natural human instinct for loss aversion, or the tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains, to our advantage. The theory is that funding will increase if we successfully use facts and evidence to communicate what specifically will be lost if support for environmental causes isn’t given.

The second method uses another aspect of human psychology: The Ostrich Effect. This term refers to people’s tendencies to avoid difficult situations or bad news. In theory, if talking about facts and threats makes donors want to run in the opposite direction, we should make a case for support that highlights opportunity, solutions, and preparedness.

You may recognize both of these tactics. A variety of nonprofits use them, not just environmental causes. I have used them myself, here with HILT in letters to donors or in creating our annual appeal. I am challenged daily with how to effectively convey the urgency and necessity of what we do, the continuing need for support, and the incredible impacts and successes we’ve had, without diminishing the severity of the challenges we face.

Thankfully, HILT has a base of donors who have seen the impact and value of the work we do (possibly many of you reading this right now) who faithfully and generously support us every year. However, if we are to do more, and if we are going to continue our work over the next 10, 20, or 100 or more years, we must continually attract new donors. New donors who, similar to that visionary group of people who came together to save Waihee, understand that our futures and our way of life are inexorably tied to our environment and the need to take and sustain action now so our children will have a better future. Let's reach out and empower the next generation of Waihee visionaries.

— Angela Britten

What kinds of messages do you respond to? Take this fun quiz to find out!

Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and Wai Koa Plantation Announce Agreement to Protect the Popular Wai Koa Loop Trail on Kauai

Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and Wai Koa Plantation announced today that that an agreement has been reached to preserve the popular Wai Koa Loop Trail in Kīlauea Kauaʻi.

Joan Porter, owner of Wai Koa Plantation stated, “My family and I are very pleased to work with the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust to protect and preserve this popular walking trail for the people of Kauai.  Wai Koa was very special to my husband, Bill, and I know he would be deeply grateful for the opportunity to conserve it in perpetuity.” The agreement will ensure that the trail and access to the scenic Stone Dam will be preserved for future generations.

“The Hawaiian Islands Land Trust is excited that this trail which provides significant scenic and outdoor recreational opportunities for Kauai’s residents will be preserved and continue to provide for the health and well-being of the people of Kauai,” said HILT CEO Kawika Burgess.

The Wai Koa Loop Trail is a 4.5-mile hiking trail located in Kilauea Kauai and can be accessed through the Anaina Hou Community Park located at 5-2723 Kuhio Highway in Kilauea, Kauai. The hike is free, but hikers are asked to sign a waiver at Anaina Hou where maps of the trail are also available. The trail provides beautiful views of the Namahana Mountains, an historic stone dam, the Kilauea Forest, as well as the largest mahogany plantation in the United States. The trail is open from 9:00 am to dusk and takes between 2.5 to 4 hours to complete the hike. For more information about the trail visit: http://anainahou.org/park-features/the-wai-koa-loop-trail/.