The Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission has been working to restore the island for more than two decades. The group started with a multi-million dollar trust fund, but that has nearly run out. Now the team is looking at major cutbacks. Eileen Chao has more from The Maui News.
Twenty years ago, the federal government gave the state 44-million dollars to clean up Kaho‘olawe. Now that fund is down to 400-thousand dollars. The Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, or KIRC, had hoped to get at least $3 million in state funding to sustain operations for the next fiscal year, but lawmakers approved only $1 million in the last legislative session. The KIRC now plans to lay off at least two of its 18 staff members, reduce several others to part-time, and cut remaining salaries by 5-percent. Administrators are also looking at closing its base camp on the island for two weeks every month to save on energy costs. Staff members have started an internet Go Fund Me campaign. The group hopes to raise $100,000 to continue volunteer and restoration programs through the summer. Kaho’olawe was used by the U.S. Navy as a bombing range during World War II and for decades afterward. Military use stopped after members of the Protect Kaho'olawe Ohana began occupying the island in 1976. Under state law, it is to be eventually turned over to a native Hawaiian sovereign entity recognized by the state and federal governments.