The Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge (HINWR), encompassing more than two-thirds of the Hawaiian archipelago and, stretching over 900 miles northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands, consists of some of the most remote islands and on the planet - hosting a rich, varied, and genetically unique biological and historical legacy of global significance.
The HINWR was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909 to provide legal protection for the seabirds living on these remote islands and atolls that were once slaughtered for their plumage and eggs. The refuge includes the islands of Nihoa, Mokumanamana, French Frigate Shoals, Gardner Pinnacles, Maro Reef, Laysan, Lisianski, and Pearl and Hermes Atoll.
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument was established by Presidential Proclamation 8031 on June 15, 2006 under the authority of the Antiquities Act (16 U.S.C. 431-433). It was expressly created to protect an exceptional array of natural and cultural resources. A year later, it was given its Hawaiian name, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
By 2010, the Monument was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on behalf of its natural and cultural significance. While the HINWR is part of the State of Hawai’i, and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), it still remains unfamiliar to the majority of the people of Hawai’i. With recent budget cuts, USFWS researchers and volunteers can no longer monitor seabird populations, mediate marine debris, or restore native ecosystems. Over time, these setbacks will have detrimental impacts to the cultural and environmental resources of the Hawaiian Islands.
The idea to form the Friends of HINWR began in 2012 when wildlife volunteers noticed the need for community outreach to raise awareness about the refuge, their unique significance and their need for preservation. After several years of discussion among board members across different states and disciplines, the common goal to provide the refuge a helping hand in the form of a nonprofit organization became a reality when the Friends group received its official 501(c)3 status in June 2015.
Since 2016, USFWS budgetary and programmatic changes to the HINWR shifted the focus of projects that the Friends group originally strived to accomplish. For example, all permanent USFWS camps within the Refuge have been closed and field staff presence in the Refuge has been limited to only a few weeks per year. However, the overall goal to increase understanding of the globally significant resources of the Refuge remain intact. In some respect, those goals are broadening as the Friends of HINWR begins to work with other Hawaiian and Pacific refuges to increase public awareness of the importance of all Pacific refuges and their interconnectedness throughout the Pacific region, building partnerships among ecological and cultural stakeholders throughout the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
A brief history of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge by The History Guy