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Feb 25th
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Home Travel Western Travel Buzz Hawaii’s James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge to Expand, Protecting More Endangered Waterbirds Breeding Grounds

Hawaii’s James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge to Expand, Protecting More Endangered Waterbirds Breeding Grounds

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Hawaii's James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, about an hour and fifteen minute drive from bustling Honolulu, is about to undergo a major expansion, adding 456 acres of some of the last existing wild coastal wetland and dune habitats which have been under private ownership.

The expansion will bring the wildlife refuge, part of the Kahuku coastline on Oahu's north shore, up to 1,100 acres. (The Fish & Wildlife Service acquired acquired 384 acres in December 2009.) The added acreage will provide more protection for rare and endangered animals and plants. 

Among them are four endangered water birds found only in Hawaii: the koloa (Hawaiian duck), the ‘alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian coot), ‘alae‘ula (Hawaiian moorhen) and the ae‘o (Hawaiian stilt).

The area is also important to the survival of numerous migratory birds. As many as 25 different types of North American water birds, ducks and geese spend their winters in Hawaii. Among them are protected birds such as the kolea (Pacific golden plover), the kioea (bristle-thighed curlew) and a wide variety of migratory ducks.

But if you want the chance to see four of Hawaii's endangered waterbirds at James Campbell NWR, you'll have to wait until October.

"The area is open to the public, but tours are only available from October through February, and are guided by volunteer groups on Thursdays and Saturdays," Barbara Maxfield, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told OldWestNewWest.com Travel & History Magazine. "The refuge is closed during the remainder of the year to provide undisturbed habitat for the ae‘o breeding season."

Recreational opportunities at the refuge are limited to wildlife viewing and photography

The added acreage comes from a deal brokered through the leadership of elected officials, and the James Campbell Company, owners of the added property. The $22 million to purchase the property came from a special appropriation from Congress.

"Thanks to Senator Daniel Inouye and Hawaii's congressional delegation, a significant national heritage has been protected for the sake of our children and grandchildren," said James Campbell Company CEO Steve MacMillan. "After being the stewards of this heritage for more than a century, we are pleased to have been able to play a role in placing this land in the public trust forever."

The paperwork should be completed by early 2011.

According to Maxfield, the refuge currently sees perhaps a couple thousand visitors a year. Future plans for the refuge may include developing a special boardwalk and a visitor's center.

Established in 1976, the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge lies at the northernmost tip of O‘ahu, adjacent to the town of Kahuku. As part of the O‘ahu NWR Complex, the refuge consists of both natural and artificially maintained wetlands.

Although altered by historical human activity, this refuge remains one of the few relatively intact wetland systems left on O‘ahu. Refuge wetlands are enhanced, managed, and protected to provide maximum production and survival of endangered Hawaiian waterbird populations.

Birdwatchers travel from around the world, Maxwell said, for the chance to see four of the six endangered Hawaiian waterbirds as well as the bristle-thighed curlew together in one locale.

For more information about the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, visit the Web site at