Sierra Club of Hawai‘i strives to protect our islands’ diverse environment and its resources.

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Advocating for the environment is never an easy Job. Its needs are never-ending and constantly evolving, and protecting it requires a nuanced understanding of a lot that goes unspoken. Sure, science is involved, guiding the way. But you can’t outright ask mother nature what it needs.

Ensuring the environment in Hawai‘I does have a voice in its future is sierra club of Hawai‘i. Established almost 50 years ago, the organization offers various trail-restoration projects and cleanups; and also fights development. The group also has had a hand in protecting agricultural lands to be used for food production, forests and beaches.

“We have also helped connect people to their surrounding natural environment through our public education programs that get people outdoors and engaged in pressing issues,” adds sierra club of Hawai‘I Director Marti Townsend.

One such program is high school hikers. Available through sierra club of Hawai‘I since as far back as the early ’70s, the program takes high school students hiking in an effort to pique their interest in the environment.

The group convenes with their advisor four times a year for major events that include a fall workshop during which participants learn basic hiking protocols, as well as how to pitch a tent and what to pack.

There’s also a halloween camp that offers the usual holiday fare, such as pumpkin carving and costume contests. The catch is that each participating school takes turns every year in laying out a hiking path. At night while other high school hikers embark on the journey, it’s the hosting school’s chance to (safely) scare participants.

Most recently, high school hikers spent three days camping at kualoa regional park. Students spent time learning about different types of limu found in the ocean from representatives of the department of land and natural resources, division of aquatic resources.

The goal, explains high school hikers president Jamie Tanino, is not only to get students outside and involved, but to also get them thinking about potential careers in the field.

Tanino understands the value of high school hikers well. She joined the program as a junior in high school more than 20 years ago and hasn’t left since. For Tanino, getting involved in high school hikers was a way for her to engage in physical activities rather than—as she jokes—sit around the house and watch tv.

More importantly, though, it opened her eyes to the beauty of nature. Today she works with O‘ahu army natural resources program as a rare snail conservation specialist, and she credits her experience with high school hikers as having prepared her for the job.

Beyond its high school hikers program and many others, sierra club of Hawai‘i currently is looking to build a stronger relationship with camp Palehua. The hope explains Townsend, is that sierra club of Hawai‘I can help restore the area—it already is assisting in a fence installation that will help protect the ‘elepaio (a native species of monarch flycatcher) habitat, removing invasive species, planting native species and maintaining fires, she says.

To help the community get more involved in policymaking, sierra club of Hawai‘I has also brought back its capitolwatch program. Through a page on its website,interested individuals can keep track of bills the organization is following, gain access to legislators’ contact information, and obtain information and resources.

“We are particularly concerned with promoting clean energy to prevent further climate change, and protecting our freshwater resources from contamination and depletion,” says Townsend.

She admits there is a lot of work to be done—which is why the organization always can use more help.

“Because of our work, young people continue to grow up in Hawai‘i with a connection to our unique environment—in spite of the increasing pressures of a digitalized society,” says Townsend. “Thanks to the sierra club, you can still find breathtaking wild areas throughout the hawaiian islands, where you can shed the detritus of modern society and replenish your soul.”