Before I became Chair and Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources I was Deputy Managing Director for Hawaiʻi County. I had regular (daily) interaction with the Police Department on a wide variety of issues.
Police tell us that an engaged community is one of the best ways to reduce crime. They then help organize and support Neighborhood Watch programs across the Islands.
It’s a program that discourages preventable crime by organizing awareness meetings to help neighbors get to know one another and look out for each other, and recognize and report suspicious activity.
At DLNR, we initiated the Mauka-Makai Watch program. It’s modeled after the successful Neighborhood Watch program; the intent is to get communities working with resource managers and enforcement.
However, here community volunteers focus on natural and cultural resources, especially the coastline and nearshore waters, when partnering with Department of Land and Natural Resources DLNR enforcement officers.
The program incorporated experience DLNR had with the Miloliʻi community, with the assistance of The Nature Conservancy and the Community Conservation Network, as well as with the Wai ‘Opae community.
The Mauka-Makai Watch program is based on the idea that the people who use, live closest to or are involved with the resources are in the best position to help in ensuring compliance with resource protection and preservation. Think of it as a community “watch” program in the forests and/or coastal areas.
It’s not about vigilantism or exclusion, but simply a willingness to help prevent wrong-doing through presence and education, look out for suspicious activity, monitor and care for the resources, and report inappropriate activity to law enforcement and to each other.
The program is flexible and versatile; it can focus on marine and coastal related context under a “Makai Watch” reference, or it can center on forest, hunting or other inland issues under a “Mauka Watch” reference. Or, it can incorporate a broad, comprehensive network linking inland and coastal matters under a Mauka-Makai Watch.
Most attention has been to the “Makai” aspect of the program. Makai Watch focuses on caring for near-shore marine resources with the active participation of local communities.
Makai Watch volunteers in over ten communities across the state serve as the ‘eyes and ears’ for conservation and resource enforcement officials (DLNR-DOCARE), as well as help monitor and protect the resources.
The Makai Watch Program was initially created as a partnership effort by the DLNR and several non-governmental organizations including Community Conservation Network (CCN), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Hawaii Wildlife Fund (HWF) and several community-based organizations.
Community-supported natural and cultural resource protection and preservation programs represent a win-win opportunity. DLNR wants and needs citizens to take more personal and collective responsibility for protecting the resources.
Over the years, DLNR has developed various programs to involve communities in resource protection and management. Until now, these programs worked interdependently and, although very successful, lacked a coordinated effort by the department.
When the community is part of an ongoing stewardship-type presence and educational outreach, they can help monitor and care for the resources. This protection can also extend to being aware of suspicious activity, and reporting it to each other and law enforcement.
The Makai Watch Program has grown over the past 10-years and DLNR partners with communities and non-governmental organizations including The Nature Conservancy, Kua‘aina Ulu Auamo, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, Project SEA-Link and funding provided by Conservation International Hawaii and the Harold K Castle Foundation.