DLNR NEWS RELEASE – CHRISTMAS TREE BONFIRES AT AHU O LAKA ARE ILLEGAL AND DISRESPECTFULPosted on Dec 27, 2022 in Latest Department News, Newsroom
(HONOLULU) – The pro-active education and outreach about the illegal burning of Christmas trees at Ahu O Laka (Kāne‘ohe Bay sandbar), last year was successful. The DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) received no reports of tree burnings in late 2021 or early 2022.
However, at the beginning of 2021, DLNR/DOCARE warned that illegal tree bonfires at Ahu O Laka violate Hawai‘i Administrative Rules (HAR), and that year, the situation was exacerbated by non-compliance with COVID-19 mandates. Photos on social media sites showed large numbers of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder without masks, as tree-fueled fires burn in the background.
DOCARE has adopted a zero-tolerance stance toward tree burnings. Chief Jason Redulla said, “Ahu O Laka is sacred to Hawaiians, so this activity is clearly disrespectful and it’s illegal under state law. Add on the destruction these fires cause to both our ocean and terrestrial natural resources, and it is just wrong on all fronts.”
“Ahu o Laka is a sacred place,” said Leialoha “Rocky” Kaluhiwa, president of the Ko`olaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club. “The iwi (remains) of Chief Laka of Maui were brought by his sons and buried there centuries ago. Once iwi is buried in an area, it is consecrated and considered ‘kapu’, or sacred to Native Hawaiians. We strongly discourage anyone from taking their `opala (discarded items like Christmas trees) to light bonfires on Ahu o Laka.”
Redulla added, DOCARE officers rely greatly on the expeditious reporting of natural and cultural resources violations by anyone who witnesses them. There are two ways to report incidents: 643-DLNR (3567) or via the free DLNRTip app available for both iPhone and Android users.
“Clearly, our officers cannot be everywhere, all the time, and the faster we receive reports about illegal activities, the better chance we have of responding in time to educate violators, and when necessary, to cite them. All we ask is for everyone to respect the ‘āina,” Redulla said.
To report tree burnings:
(808) 643-DLNR (3567) on all islands
Download the free DLNRTip app, available for both iPhone and Android users
Senior Communications Manager
Hawai’i Dept. of Land and Natural Resources