Meet The Team

The Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (“HILT”) has a team of dedicated land conservation professionals.  

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Laura Kaakua, CHief Executive Officer

Hawaiian Islands Land Trust appointed Laura Kaakua as President and Chief Executive Officer in March 2019.

Kaakua is a graduate of Boston College and the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, and has extensive land conservation experience. She spent the last nine years serving as the Aloha Aina 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 alakai of halau hula Na Pualei o Likolehua, a volunteer with Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana, and served as a committee member of the Access to Justice Commission.


Scott Fisher, Chief Conservation Officer

Scott grew up in Kula, and at age 17 enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After his discharge, he studied at Colorado State University.  Scott’s graduate work includes an M.A. in peace studies with a concentration in native Hawaiian strategies of peacemaking and reconciliation.  His Ph.D. explored the dynamics of post-conflict recovery in a civil war on the island of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, with a particular emphasis on how communities make wise decisions about conflicts over natural resources.

Since 2003 Scott has worked for the Maui Coastal Land Trust, first as a project manager at the land trust’s 277-acre Waihe‘e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge and now as the Associate Executive Director of Consevation for the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust.  In this capacity he has led all aspects of the ecological restoration work conducted by the Land Trust.  Since 2005 he has served on the Maui/Lana‘i Island Burial Council and, more recently, as a board member of the Hawai‘i Wetlands Joint Venture, Public Access Trails Hawai‘i, and the Friends of Midway Atoll. Scott enjoys teaching people about cultural and natural history of Hawai‘i and pounding poi with his kids on the weekend.


Photo credit: Jason Jones

Photo credit: Jason Jones

Courtenay O’Connor, Chief Advancement OFFICER

Courtenay O’Connor was appointed as HILT’s Chief Advancement Officer in June 2018. Prior to HILT, she worked with The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii as the Senior Associate Director of Philanthropy. Before moving to Hawaii in 2015, she served as counsel to nonprofits across the continent and internationally with CCS, LLC., a private consulting firm advising nonprofits in fundraising and capital campaign strategy.

Prior to CCS, she worked on international development, global public health, and peacekeeping & peacebuilding projects across Africa and the Pacific. Courtenay worked with Catholic Relief Services and a network of health partners to secure the Republic of Guinea’s $46 malaria million grant from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. She staffed agencies and departments of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Burundi (BINUB) in Bujumbura and at the UN Secretariat in New York. She consulted the Republic of Palau’s Ministry of Health on the development and management of its first Institutional Review Board for medical research conducted on native Palauan and Pacific Islander populations.

She has a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Vermont, and holds advanced PADI scuba diving certification. She enjoys camping, hiking, yoga, surfing, diving, and saving the landscapes that make living in Hawaii nei so special.


Angie Britten, Development Director

Angela Britten was born and raised in Kailua, in Koʻolaupoko ahupuaʻa on the island of Oʻahu. She spent her childhood exploring the mountains and valleys of Oʻahu, learning the history and stories of her home and exploring the oceans surrounding the islands as a paddler for Kailua Canoe Club. Angie earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa specializing in Ethnic Literature and Hawaiian Studies.

She has worked in development for many years, most recently with Hawaiʻi Theatre Center and before that with Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Angie has served as a board member for a number of nonprofit organizations including currently serving as President Elect for the Association of Fundraising Professionals - Aloha Chapter. Her upbringing and education inspired a passionate love for her one hānau (birth home) and its natural spaces. She enjoys practicing Hawaiian language, hiking, paddling and spending time with her daughter.


James Crowe, Land Stewardship manager

Born and raised on Maui, James is rooted in the islands.  That connection continues to grow stronger as he works to restore natural systems endemic to Hawai‘i and takes pride in the renewed life that has been given to the land.


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KAREN POLLARD, FIELD TECHNICIAN

Before the land trust formed, Karen came upon the future Waihe‘e Refuge while enjoying a beach walk with her family and thought to herself, “This place could be a nice, if someone just tidied it up a bit”. Ten years later and after graduating from UH Maui college with a degree in Ag and Natural Resources.  Karen joined the HILT team part-time while continuing her studies. To learn more about what to reintroduce at the refuge, Karen works part time at the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens (MNBG). A great partnership has since been formed between the two as seeds and seedlings exchange back and forth. In her first summer at MNBG, Karen collected 700 unwanted hala seedlings from the garden and planted them out in Waihe‘e with the help of volunteers, in the next summer that number doubled, and the planting continues!