In 2013, the community members of Kailua, Oahʻu wanted to do something positive about Climate Change. Their focus was to initiate a project combining climate education with action and by providing hands-on access to resources that were meaningful and sustainable. Around the same time, DLNR had purchased the 60 acre watershed of Hāmākua Marsh, which is a smaller portion of land adjacent to the larger Ramsar designated Kawai nui wetlands. Their focus was primarily preserving and protecting this wetland habitat for endangered birds. With the support of DLNR biologist Katie Doyle, the project kicked off in 2015 with permission for school and community groups to come visit, learn more about climate change and restore the native and endemic habitat by planting trees on the adjacent hillside of Puʻu o Ehu.
This organization initially began and was led by Executive Director Lisa Marten, along with her friends and their ohana. They began planting the first of 9 seedlings, watering by hand and weeding continuously until the first grove began to tower over the visitors that would come to see. After many tests of irrigation systems, the project enlisted the help of local school groups. After the success of one single school, it quickly grew to include over a dozen. Local community businesses and organizations also started coming for volunteer workdays. With years of trial and error, much needed climate related educational materials and a new planting system was developed which Healthy Climate Communities currently implements.
Today, Healthy Climate Communities employees part time land managers and educators to work in collaboration with the Hawaiʻi State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and their biologists. With the help of local schools and community groups, the Pu'u o Ehu Hillside and watershed of Hāmākua Marsh is home to thousands of rare and endangered native and endemic plants, including ko'oloa'ula, wili wili, koa and Hawaiʻi state flower, mao hau hele. Caring for these plants continues to be a tough job made possible through education and action and by 100ʻs of dedicated and caring individuals working together to make a difference.