DLNR News Release-On World Wetlands Day Focus is on Fencing at Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary

Posted on Feb 2, 2023 in Latest Department News, Newsroom

(KAHULUI) – The Kanahā Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary on Maui is the oldest wetland managed by the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW). It is unique; sandwiched between the ocean, a busy urban and commercial area, and an international airport.

Yet, despite all the noise and commotion, several species of endangered Hawaiian water birds continue to live and thrive in the ponds of the sanctuary. In addition, dozens of species of migratory birds inhabit the shallow waters and mud flats across the year.

Today, is World Wetlands Day, established to recognize the importance of the ecological services wetlands provide, not only for wildlife, but for people.

“Kanahā used to be part of Kahului Harbor, it was just a sandy outlet,” explains Jeff Bagshaw of the DOFAW Maui Branch. “An early Maui king created fishponds and then during WWII, canals were put in to help drain flood waters from the Maui business district.” Wetlands help direct and soak up flood waters. And as, Bagshaw says, it’s a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life to find some peace and quiet.

Work is currently underway to replace an old, rusty fence that surrounds the sprawling sanctuary, with predator-proof fencing to keep rats, cats, mongoose, and dogs from attacking ground-nesting birds. The current fence doesn’t keep axis deer out, as they can jump over it to feast on many of the 60 species of native plants at Kanahā Pond.

DOFAW’s Sasha Smith, the long-time caretaker at the wildlife sanctuary said, “The old fence is not only not working, but it’s deteriorated so much it is actually a hazard. It doesn’t keep anything out.” Bagshaw demonstrated numerous locations where he could stick his hand right through the fence.

The new fence, two and a half miles in length, will surround Kanahā. It has a hood or cover on top which makes it impossible for feral cats and other predators to climb over.

“It’s as much about keeping predators out, as keeping birds like nene in,” Smith said. Recently, and in the past, individual nēnē or entire families have gone through holes in the old fence and have been hit by cars. “The fence project is huge for that to help keep our bird families contained in the pond in a safe place.”

A small section of predator-proof fencing is complete, and posts are up to accommodate more. It is being funded by a federal grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) National Coastal Wetlands Program and state funds allocated by the legislature. However, in the last year, costs for materials and labor have increased significantly beyond the current budget.  As a result, DLNR is working to pursue additional funding to complete the fence around the entire perimeter of the Kanahā

Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary.

Additional National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program funding announced


Just in time for World Wetlands Day, the USFWS announced nearly $1.5 million in matching federal grants for Hawai‘i wetlands restoration and conservation. These grants provide the majority of funding for three projects and the State will provide additional funding.

National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grant Program 2023


  • Hulē‘ia Coastal Wetland Phase 2 Restoration:

$627,150 federal grant; $313,575 state match, $940,725 total cost

  • Reimagining the wetland landscape in Moloka‘i-Kahanui wetland acquisition:

$401,000 federal grant: $255,000 state match, $656,000 total project cost

  • Northwestern Moloka‘i coastal restoration-‘Īlio Point predator fence:

$460,753 federal grant, $193,805 state match, $653,838 total project cost

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(All images and video courtesy: DLNR)

HD video – Kanahā Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary (Jan. 31, 2023):


(shot sheet/transcriptions attached)

Photographs – Kanahā Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary (Jan. 31, 2023):


Virtual tour of Kanahā Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary:


Media Contact:

Dan Dennison

Senior Communications Manager

(808) 587-0396

[email protected]